Guest Opinion: Focus on preserving Southport’s charm, planning its future
Updated 6:09 am, Sunday, September 13, 2015
Southport is at a crossroads: Our charming community is being altered by piecemeal development, construction companies that put their self-interests above the public good, and the lack of an updated master plan that adequately reflects Southport’s historic charm and positions it for the future.
One need only drive down Post Road between the I-95 overpass and the Westport border to see the eyesores and near-blighted properties, along with the choppy development — all of which hurt businesses and residential property values in Southport.
As I argued at the Town Plan and Zoning Commission public hearing for the Garelick & Herbs development on Post Road in July 2013, the Southport section of town is in serious need of infrastructure upgrades by the Town of Fairfield and the Connecticut Department of Transportation to bring it into the 21st Century. One area of particular concern is the intersection of Post Road and Hulls Highway, which has become a traffic nightmare in recent years, forcing many residents to take alternative routes, such as Mill Hill Terrace, to travel to Fairfield’s town center. The problem is that Mill Hill Terrace is ill-equipped for all of this vehicular traffic, let alone for the several new/proposed developments in the area, no matter how noble those projects may be, as Mill Hill Terrace can barely support the existing homes, schools and businesses in this residential section of town.
What we need is a commitment from Town Hall and Hartford to clean up Post Road in Southport, while ensuring that the surrounding roads are designed properly with the necessary sidewalks, crosswalks, curbs, traffic signals and stop signs. We need a forward-looking commercial and residential master plan for Southport that will protect, preserve, and invest in our neighborhoods — not antiquated rules and a lack of attention that work against us and ultimately hurt Southport property values.
Until Town Hall is willing to make Southport a priority for infrastructure improvements and creates a strategy for the redevelopment of this gateway to Fairfield at the border of Southport and Westport, a moratorium on all new commercial developments, subdivisions of residential properties, and zoning changes in Southport should be implemented to protect us from piecemeal development, unacceptable levels of neighborhood traffic, and developments that are inconsistent with Southport’s character and charm.
As a member of the Representative Town Meeting from District 1 residing in Southport, I have been supportive of our town’s redevelopment efforts in the town center, Commerce Drive and lower Black Rock Turnpike over recent years, but I remain disappointed by Town Hall’s and the state’s lack of focus on and commitment to revitalizing Post Road in Southport.
Let us not forget that Southport homeowners contribute significantly to Fairfield’s tax coffers, and we all know how much we pay in Connecticut state taxes.
So I ask: Where is the long-overdue plan and commitment to Southport’s future?
Michael D. Herley, a three-term Republican member of the Representative Town Meeting from District 1, is also the body’s deputy majority leader.