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Saturday, March 24 News

Day-care center plan for Stratfield Market site wins most neighbors' support

Plans to open a day-care center at the long-vacant former Stratfield Market property -- site of a years-long, ultimately failed bid by Walgreen's to open a pharmacy -- is winning largely positive reviews from neighbors.

Most speakers at the Town Plan and Zoning Commission hearing Tuesday on the Child's World Academy application for the site at 1280 Stratfield Road supported the project. Several, however, questioned traffic at the already congested intersection of Stratfield Road (state Route 59) and Fairfield Woods Road.

The TPZ closed the public hearing Tuesday night, but took no vote on the application.

The Stratfield Market closed more than six years ago, and neighbors for several years battled attempts by Walgreen's to open an outlet on the site, a campaign that ended three year ago when the state Supreme Court rejected Walgreen's final appeal of the local zoning rejection of its plan. In the process of the battle, neighbors established the Stratfield Village Association, which lobbied for adoption of zoning regulation revisions that prohibit large retail chains from opening in the town's neighborhood business districts.

"I am in total happiness," Adley Road resident Joan Rasmussen told the TPZ. "We have put up with a mess for years," she said of the former grocery store, whose condition has been the source of many neighborhood complaints.

The day-care center has locations in Monroe and Peekskill, N.Y., and until last week, a location in Trumbull. The Trumbull site closed because the landlord has new plans for the property, said John Fallon, the lawyer representing CWA owners Ken and Pat Johnsson.

About 25 to 30 percent of the clients of the Trumbull day-care center are from Fairfield, he said, and look forward to this application being approved.

One of those residents is Jack Carter, of Benedict Road. His 22-month-old daughter has been going to CWA's Trumbull location, and since the family lives near the proposed Stratfield Road site, he said would be wonderful.

Carter, as well as Fallon, pointed out that a day-care center is not like a school, with all the children being dropped off and picked up at the same time.

"I think this would really be a great improvement for the neighborhood," Carter said. "I think it's something that's really needed in Fairfield."

Nick Novia, of Farmington Road, disagreed. He said the intersection next to the property is dangerous and traffic already a burden, between commuters and 15 different schools in the area. "It's a very dangerous place," he said.

Novia said he doesn't believe the empty building, which some complainants contend is blighted, has been detrimental to property values. "I know everyone's desperate for something to go there ... I don't know that a Dunkin' Donuts would be worse."

The plans call for the existing structure to be used, but completely renovated inside and out. Parents would enter from Stratfield Road and exit onto either New Street or Fairfield Woods Road. The main entrance would face Fairfield Woods Road.

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The day-care center would be open from 6:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m., and might offer a summer camp if there is sufficient interest in such a program, Fallon said.