Almost a decade later, Fairfield’s High Street armory still not the town’s
FAIRFIELD — Starting in 2006, there were some intense meetings in town as the community debated what to do with the John S. Turner U.S. Army Reserve Center on High Street.
As part of a plan that closed bases across the country, the High Street armory was being shuttered and its occupants moved to a new location outside Hartford. When that happened, the town could get the property at no cost, provided it was used for a community purpose.
Many ideas were pitched, including a pool, a senior center, an active recreational facility, as well as passive park, with walking trails and picnic areas. In the end, according to Tom Bremer, a former chief of staff in the first selectman’s office, and chairman of the High Street Local Redevelopment Authority, the town went with a generic “recreational use.”
He said not knowing when, or if, the town would eventually get title to the property, keeping the proposed use as simply recreational made more sense, though the resolution approved by the Board of Selectmen in 2008 included an indoor basketball gym. A five-year plan issued in 2010 by then-First Selectman Kenneth Flatto included $250,000 for renovations at the site.
Bremer may have been right. Despite the federal Department of the Interior’s approval of the recreational use in 2008, the property, near Gould Manor Park, has yet to be transferred to the town.
First Selectman Mike Tetreau said there’s been no recent communication from the federal government, and he’s not sure that it actually is vacant, although it appears to be. He said they had heard that the government was planning to do some environmental testing at the property.
In February of 2015, the environmental division of the Army notified the town it was preparing an environmental assessment to “analyze the impacts that could result from the proposed action of property disposal and reuse...”
The 5.11-acre site includes two buildings, nearly two acres of paved parking, and an acre of woods.
In its approval letter from 2008, the National Park Service said, “Based on our evaluation of the application, we have determined that the highest and best use in the public’s interest is for park and recreational purposes.”