Fairfield Selectmen deny library parking purchase, approve additional park testing
FAIRFIELD — The Board of Selectmen voted at Wednesday’s meeting against the purchase of a property to expand parking at the library, but approved a Parks and Recreation request to test all additional town parks for contaminants.
The Selectmens’ unanimous vote of denial killed a town attempt to purchase part of the property at 1020 Old Post Road to create additional parking for Fairfield Main Library.
The denial came after multiple residents spoke about the detriment that the development would have to the neighborhood, which is part of the town’s Historic District.
The denied proposal estimated a cost of $500,000 to acquire and improve the front half of the property. The Board of Library Trustees, who unanimously supported the purchase and parking lot expansion, would have funded up to $450,000 to the project.
During public comment, residents spoke to concerns about the project, which some noted would violate a right-of-way easement that the house’s abutting owners have over the road. Town Attorney Stanton Lesser also noted the existence of this right-of-way.
One resident, Ann Katis, was brought to tears in her emotional presentation about the need to preserve the Historic District.
“We are the living library of this town,” Katis said. “We do it for the love of our old homes and the character of the neighborhoods. I can’t believe I’m here begging the town to support us.”
Katis provided the Selectmen with an online petition with 650 signatures, as well as a door-to-door petition she administered with 78 signatures from neighbors.
Other neighbors expressed concerns about the lack of community engagement on the issue and how quickly it has gone through town bodies without taking into account public concerns.
The Selectmen ultimately voted 3-0 against the proposal, ending efforts to purchase the property and expand parking.
Meanwhile, the Selectmen voted unanimously in favor of a request by Parks and Recreation Director Anthony Calabrese that the town test all parks and fields under their jurisdiction that have not been identified as test sites thus far.
The town has used invoices to identify locations that used fill from the contaminated Public Works pile during the years it was managed by Julian Enterprises. Since August, 60 sites have been tested.
Calabrese’s request on behalf of the Parks and Recreation Commission sought to test additional sites not on this list out of an abundance of caution. The Commission wanted to ensure that that no other parks are affected after contaminants were found at eight sites.
Selectmen Ed Bateson and Chris Tymniak both expressed support for the proposal, saying that given concerns over obscurity in Public Works dealings, they should not limit testing to sites matched by invoices.
“We have to verify everything because we don’t have accurate records of where this stuff went through the town,” Tymniak said.
The additional parks under town jurisdiction include: Dalewood Park, Dover Park, Drew Park, Grasmere Eldercare, Greenfield Hill Green, Henry Rowland Park, Highwood Park, Hook and Ladder Park, Karolyi Park, Knapps Park Square, Lake Mohegan, Lincoln Park, Melville Park, Owen Fish Park, Palmers Neck, Penfield Complex, Perry’s Green, Pine Creek Avenue Park, Rugby Park, Sgt. Murphy Park, Sherman Green, Veres Street Park and Veterans Park.