The and most of the also argued against it, but some members of the Planning and Zoning Commission believe the campus should at least be open to the possibility of housing.
"This place needs a little jumpstart, and since commercial hasn't had a jumpstart, maybe housing can be a jumpstart," Dean said of the Fairfield Hills campus. "I don't see the money appearing for tearing down buildings that are derelict."
With split opinions on whether to allow the possibility of housing at Fairfield Hills, the zoning commission, which met Thursday at the Municipal Center, eventually postponed making any decisions. The commission was to have decided the matter – an amendment – weeks ago but then postponed it in order to await the final report from the Fairfield Hills Master Plan Review Committee.
The report, which was released a few weeks ago and conducted after about 1,000 residents were surveyed, said the public was overwhelmingly opposed to housing on the campus. Still zoning commission Chairman Lilla Dean questioned whether the survey was representative of the public, saying that her daughters took the survey midway through before quitting out because it had taken too long.
"Questionaires should be a certain length," Dean said.
The zoning commission chairman said the public may have been influenced by news that a developer was interested in .
"That is a huge number," Dean said. "Maybe it wouldn't take that many to be feasible...maybe we could cap it at 35.
At the same time, other members said the public had spoken in the form of the survey and during public hearings held on the matter.
"The town is 99-percent saying they don't want housing," member Bob Poulin said. "Personally I don't mind some housing but I can't go against what the town wants."
Other commisison members said the public was unaware of some of the problems that arise due to a lack of housing – specifically affordable housing – in town. Developers who have plans with some element of affordable housing in them can have the court system order the issuance of a zoning permit over the objection of Newtown officials, such as in the case of the Edona Commons project on Church Hill Road.
"I don't think the town feels the pain that we feel," Jane Brymer said.
Member Dan Cruson also said the amendment would allow the developers to bring potential projects in front of the zoning commission for consideration.
"The possibility should be opened up for some future date where there is support for that without having to come for a special exception for us," he said.
Still, member Bob Mulholland said that option was available to developers in the future. In the past, the zoning commission has entertained discussions with developers interested in a regulatory change and then worked to make the change happen. There was no such application or request in this case, but if it were to arise in the future, the commission would be ready for it, Mulholland said.
"Somewhere along the road, we do need to have the ability to make the change and that is what this commission is all about," he said. "This commission is here to make changes when there is an application."
Dean suggested the zoning commission table the discussion until staff members could craft an alternate amendment, which would cap the number of allowable units, to allow for a smaller housing project to come forward at Fairfield Hills. Dean said in the end, housing did not need to be built at Fairfield Hills and instead could be done elsewhere in town, but that it needed to be done.
"Every time we try to do it, people object – maybe the objection here is Fairfield Hills," she said. "Maybe we have to work hard trying to get it started at some other place in town."
In the end, Mulholland said that the proposal to allow for multifamily housing at Fairfield Hills "is dead."
Dean added, "Well, it's slowly dying."