SHU proposes new building off upper Park Avenue

A new academic building to house Sacred Heart University's Colleges of Business and Education would be a win for the university, the town and neighbors, lawyer William Fitzpatrick, representing the applicant, told a Town Plan and Zoning Commission hearing Tuesday.

The hearing was closed after no one from the public spoke for or against the proposal, but the TPZ took no vote on the plan.

The academic building would be constructed on a 6.25-acre tract at the corner of Jefferson Street and Park Avenue, across the street from the SHU campus.

Fitzpatrick noted that an earlier proposal for the property by a prior owner called for a 90-unit condominium complex that was rejected by zoning officials and opposed by neighbors.

The proposed four-level structure would include a lower level of underground parking, a second level of classrooms, library and dining areas, a third level of classroom space and a fourth level with academic offices.

A big concern for TPZ members was the safey of pedestrians walking to the new building from the main campus or dormitories on Park Avenue.

Plans call for a crosswalk at the Jefferson and Park intersection, with traffic in all directions halted when the crosswalk light is activated.

But TPZ Commissioner Rich Jacobs asked what would prevent students from cutting through the Jewish Home for the Elderly's property adjacent to campus, and crossing Jefferson Street below the crosswalk.

"The kids are going to walk where the kids are going to walk," agreed Chairman Bryan LeClerc.

However, Commissioner James Kennelly said there are many walkways through the interior of the main SHU campus. Cutting through the Jewish Home property would require students to scale fences or walk through shrubbery, like an obstacle course, he indicated.

Fitzpatrick also said the university currently runs shuttle buses "everywhere," and if a bus is needed to get students to the new building, "it will be done."

Another TPZ concern was the sewer hookup for the new building. Town engineers would prefer the sewer lines be hooked into Bridgeport's sewer system, as the main campus is now. Fitzpatrick said there have always been concerns that the town's pump station on Easton Turnpike is not adequate to handle the SHU sewage and discussions are under way with Bridgeport about connecting the new building to the city's system as well.

Fitzpatrick said if Bridgeport does not allow that, SHU will have to apply to the town's Water Pollution Control Authority for permission to connect to the Fairfield sewer system. It may require the university to help fund improvements to the pump station, he said. But if that approval is not given, he said the building cannot be constructed.

In a letter from the Stratfield Improvement Association, President Julie DeMarco said the academic building plans are "respectful of the neighbors and the neighborhood."

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