Tuesday, March 5, 2024

Center School Development

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By Megan Booth

Dear Councilmen and women, Mayor Hoydick,

I am writing to you all from a place of frustration and dissatisfaction. Our neighborhood, Academy Hill, and many members of our town have been increasingly vociferous in their opposition to Center School development.

And yet, the very representative who covers half of the neighborhood (Christopher Pia, Town Council President) has chosen to bring the issue forward at the last possible moment in an attempt to pass a verdict quietly, without public input (which has been skillfully ignored) or even the chance to respond in a thoughtful way.

Why is it that the very officials elected to represent the town’s citizens are attempting to move forward with contentious issues to which their constituents are opposed?  What could possibly prevent them from doing the job they were literally chosen to do other than for personal interest?

My disappointment in Stratford’s governance is quietly evolving into anger and disgust regarding this issue.

I was fortunate enough to sit in on a presentation to the towns commissions about our latest development project and long term urban plan. Interestingly, one of the discussion points was about generating gathering places that foster a sense of community.  In the Center School property, I see a centrally located property, adjacent to an intimate shopping center and downtown area that desperately needs revival and commerce to continue. In what world is closing that area off to existing residents (by packing apartments for commuters and renters, not long term residents, and parking spaces) a good idea?  How does that promote gathering in a centrally located area?

About a month ago, I happened to be passing through Newtown, and stopped to play at one of their local playgrounds. There was an appropriately sized parking lot, a beautiful playground with stroller parking, central bench seating, and accessible pathways, a basketball court, fields and a skate park all within two acres. There were children, teenagers, young adults, parents, and grandparents. All gathered, all with a purpose. All together enjoying a beautiful fall day.

Imagine that purposeful plan adjacent to restaurants and local businesses. Imagine the residents who have invested their time and money into this town having their property values increase instead of being overshadowed by overcrowding, and concrete.

Why are we going to fire sale the most basic and last resource we have to utilize? Where is the foresight and town planning?  Where is the gathering space that we are asking for?

Ball fields on a capped lane a few blocks away are great for those who play ball, but they are not multipurpose spaces with parking and restaurants at their entrance. Please do not give this chance away. Look to the surrounding towns with thriving open spaces. They offer far more than an apartment complex ever will.

You’ve taken our neighborhood school away, you’ve taken our magnet school away, you’ve literally allowed our neighborhood to be ringed with high density housing in the name of a transit oriented district. We know that the TOD has been poorly conceived, planned, and executed other than allowing developers to skirt zoning regulations.  The closest ring of the TOD could, and SHOULD be for everyone. Please consider the residents who are here and want to be here. Please do not take our open space too.

Sincerely yours,

Megan Booth

1962 Elm Street

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