About 50 people gathered in the Alexandria Room of Edmond Town Hall to give their input on Fairfield Hills Wednesday night, participating in small group conversations before returning to the topic with a large group discussion.
“You are going to cross pollinate around the room,” Fairfield Hills Master Plan Review Committee member Ben Roberts told the crowd. “We’re trying to collectively talk and think about this issue.”
It was the second and before putting together a multiple question survey that residents will have a chance to take online, officials said.
“We’ll try to cover our bases as much as we can,” committee member Paul Lundquist said of the survey, adding the goal will be to have more than 500 people participate. “Breaking 1,000 would be wonderful.”
The committee was put together last year in order to take another look at the Fairfield Hills Master Plan and gain community consensus on the fate of the campus, which has been a hotly debated topic in the community since it was closed down as a state-run mental health institution.
Disagreements abound on what the town should do with the campus, including during Wednesday’s discussion when facilitators specifically asked about housing and other concepts. A d consider allowing one of the buildings, Cochran Hall, to be transformed into an apartment building.
The idea has proven to be controversial, with several people saying the town should continue to prohibit housing at Fairfield Hills, and if it ever did, the decision should be made by voters.
“How do we force a town to vote to change the town law on this and I would make it binding,” Marc Michaud said during the large group discussion.
Other said once the town allowed housing in one part of Fairfield Hills, it would open the door to more.
Lilla Dean, who is chairman of the Planning and Zoning Commission but attended the Community Conversation as a resident, said the town had the ability to limit residential development to narrow areas, rather than the entire campus, which might allay fears that the property would become entirely residential.
“It can be put in an extremely limited section,” she said.
Wayne Addessi, who works in Ridgefield, spoke about ways to plan the development at Fairfield Hills, which could include a residential and commercial portion as well as walking areas.
“I would love to create a downtown in Newtown,” he said. “It doesn’t mean it’s all going to be commercial.”
But some disagreed, saying the borough already was Newtown’s downtown and the town needed to preserve its open space.
“Why don’t we devote time and resources to fixing up that downtown,” borough resident Priscilla Jones said. “Once we turn Fairfield Hills into a downtown, it’s gone…People like the green, they like the pastoral of this town.”
Additional ballfields also was discussed for Fairfield Hills to help ease the field usage. In the spring 800 children participate in baseball, including on three travel teams while in the fall 500 continue baseball play.
For anyone who did not attend the meeting, the committee also has created an open Facebook group called "FFH Master Plan Opinion Page" and set up an e-mail address for people to send notes and suggestions, FFHMPRC@gmail.com.
Next step for the committee will be to digest all of the input they receive and create a survey to get an idea how many people favor what concepts.