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At the July 7 New Fairfield Zoning Commission meeting, the members heard a proposal by Todd Richey of SLR Consulting for improvements to 1 Brush Hill Road, including demolishing the former Village Hardware Store building and the addition of many parking lot and lighting upgrades to the shopping center.

Richey explained that the former hardware store is in very poor condition and demolition is being proposed for the 1,500 square-foot area that housed the store. Another 1,900 square feet of storage sheds and overhangs behind where the hardware store was located would also be demolished and removed from the site. The former hardware store building, one of the oldest in New Fairfield, has remained vacant for several years.

The proposed upgrades for the plaza’s parking lot are many, including addressing traffic flow issues, geometry of the parking spaces, and accessible spaces. Richey noted that the goal is to maintain a similar number of spots for a total of 115, but to orient them at 90-degree angles to allow for smoother maneuverability. There is also a plan to include 5 accessible spots. A traffic study conducted in late April confirmed that the lot’s peak utilization is approximately 53% between the hours of noon and 1 p.m., which contributed to the determination of parking spot needs. Richey pointed out that the current lot’s angled parking, one-way directions, and limited signage results in a confusing space for drivers. He also said that there’s a goal to ideally move parking away from the buildings to avoid customers exiting stores and immediately entering parking areas.

In addition to realigning parking spots, the proposal includes providing improvements necessary to create consistent, two-way directional traffic and installing crosswalks for safe travel, plus island “refuge” areas for pedestrians. The proposal also includes narrowing the wide entrance near Webster Bank and adding dedicated turning lanes. The parking lot’s proposed upgrades include clear signage and arrows, plus updated and increased lighting to improve the safety in the plaza.

Drainage at the site is addressed in the proposal, as Richey explained that existing drainage is limited. Proposed improvements include adding new stormwater pumps and catch basins with sumps in key areas. Richey explained that, in addition to addressing drainage issues behind the buildings, there are also improvements proposed to screen some of the potential eyesores with fencing that would be exposed after the demolition of the former hardware store.

Richey clarified that the owners plan to keep the Bank of America building, which may have new tenants in the near future. A new building of approximately 2K square feet where the hardware store stood is also a possibility for the future. For now, the proposal is being reviewed by town officials and it will be addressed again at the August 4 Zoning Commission meeting.

In an article published in the Town Tribune on January 26, 2017—at the time of the hardware store move—we reported that Arthur Chase purchased the original property that housed the hardware store, which was a farm, in 1924 and used it as his homestead. When he died in 1955, the farm was sold and developed as a shopping center by the Collins family. The home itself was moved in order to accommodate the shopping center’s development. Earl Taylor was the original owner of the Village Hardware, followed by a group of schoolteachers and then Doug DiSarro’s father in 1981. Doug, the hardware store’s current manager and former owner, purchased the store from his father and later sold it in 2007.

By Sarah Opdahl