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Police chief, neighbors criticize Berwick-Fairchild apartment proposal

Published 11:52 am, Wednesday, April 23, 2014

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  • Jennifer Dunnaville and daughter Lexie Madden, residents of Fairchild Avenue, address the Town Plan and Zoning Commission in opposition to a plan to build a 33-unit apartment complex in the neighborhood. Photo: Genevieve Reilly / Fairfield Citizen
    Jennifer Dunnaville and daughter Lexie Madden, residents of Fairchild Avenue, address the Town Plan and Zoning Commission in opposition to a plan to build a 33-unit apartment complex in the neighborhood. Photo: Genevieve Reilly

 

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Residents who fear another apartment complex proposed for the end of Fairchild and Berwick avenues will endanger their neighborhood got support Tuesday from the police chief.

At the Town Plan and Zoning Commission's public hearing on the application from Berwick/Fairchild Associates LLC to amend the zoning regulations to allow construction of 33 apartments on two parcels, Police Chief Gary MacNamara said, "This is going to impact our response. I have a concern for the safety of the area."

No decision was made by the TPZ, and the hearing was continued. According to the plan submitted to the TPZ, 10 of the 33 units would be deed restricted for 40 years as "affordable" under state income guidelines. Each apartment would have two bedrooms.

A 54-unit Garden Homes apartment building is nearing completion at the end of Fairchild Avenue.

The new project, proposed by Berwick Fairchild & Associates, LLC, would be built on two back-to-back parcels on Fairchild and Berwick avenues, diagonally across the street from the Garden Homes units. Both streets are dead ends.

MacNamara said the streets are narrow, and when cars are parked on either side, it can be difficult, if not impossible for emergency vehicles, especially fire apparatus, to get down the street. "The site, as it exists right now, makes it difficult for emergency vehicles," he said.

Add to that, the police chief said, is the flash flooding that can occur in that neighborhood from the Rooster River. "The flooding is unpredictable and the flooding is often quick," MacNamara said, adding that a resident of the neighborhood died in one such flash flood.

And while a traffic study by the applicant said the apartment complex would not add significantly to area traffic, MacNamara said he could foresee more accidents as drivers became frustrated waiting to pull out from the street onto Kings Highway.

Fairchild Avenue resident Lexie Madden, 11, said area residents already have to walk in the middle of the street, because there are no sidewalks and cars are parked along the curbs, while her mother, Jennifer Dunnaville, said, "It will impact us for a very long time."

Several Representative Town Meeting members, including Laurene O'Brien, D-5, also spoke against the apartment proposal. O'Brien said her street, Edison, also has cars parked along both sides of the street, and she recalled how an ambulance couldn't get down the street for her 5-year-old daughter. She had to carry the youngster out to meet the ambulance. She said traffic and parking issues would be worse on Fairchild and Berwick.

"This, as you know, is a compact, complex, flood-prone neighborhood," she said. "It's just simply too much use, too much residents, too much cars."

Another resident, Tom Benedetto, who lives on Berwick Avenue, said he understands the property owners want to make money, "but they picked the wrong place to do it." He, too, reported that children in the neighborhood regularly walk in the middle of the streets to get to their bus stops. Benedetto said a recent emergency on the street, which drew police cars, a fire truck and an ambulance, basically closed off the street to anyone trying to leave.

Another RTM member, Peter Ambrose, R-2, has had an office in the neighborhood for many years, and his son, Matthew, lives on Hibiscus Street. He recalled that his son's family once needed to be evacuated by boat following flash flooding.

"I am very concerned about the traffic and safety issues," Ambrose said. "I do believe that this project is too dense in size to be a realistic project for this area. Public health and safety clearly outweighs the need for a project so dense in this area."

The land proposed for the apartments was owned by the late Nello Ceccarelli, a longtime RTM member. The combined lots cover 0.46-acre. On the Berwick Avenue lot is a two-family home, while Ceccarelli's Redman's Club sits on the Fairchild Avenue parcel.

The Vision Appraisal land-records service still lists Nello Ceccarelli Properties as the owner for both parcels. The principals of Berwick Fairchild & Associates, LLC, are Richard Albertelli of Easton and Kevin Bartlett of Weston.