The online survey seeking feedback on the future of the UConn property was launched on Tuesday, and a community forum has been scheduled for late February at West Hartford Town Hall.
By Ronni Newton
The Town of West Hartford officially embarked on the “community visioning” process for the vacant 58-acre former University of Connecticut West Hartford Campus on Jan. 30, with the launch of an online survey to obtain input from residents and other stakeholders.
“We really encourage folks to participate in this. It’s very important,” Town Manager Matt Hart said.
The short survey – which takes no more than five minutes to complete – asks participants a series of questions about how long they have lived in town and how they feel about the ready availability of a variety of services and businesses, and asks them to weigh in on potential uses for the property as well as their top three areas of concern. Space is available for comments in each of the sections.
The survey, available by clicking here, will remain open for responses through Friday, Feb. 16, 2018.
“We want to know what you see as the best use for this site in the future,” Hart said, taking into account uses that would be “compatible with the community’s character and would enhance our local economy and quality of life.” A combination of uses – for recreational as well as grand list growth – is a likely possibility for the large parcel.
Once the survey has been completed, results will be discussed as part of a Community Visioning forum scheduled for Wednesday, Feb. 21, at 6:30 p.m., in the West Hartford Town Hall Auditorium. The snow date is Feb. 28.
The town has engaged consultant Milone & MacBroom to assist with the process, including facilitating the discussion at the forum. Milone & MacBroom already had background knowledge about the property because the firm worked extensively with the town for more than a year doing due diligence work while the purchase and sale agreement, terminated in December 2017, was still in place.
Community Development Manager Mark McGovern told the Town Council’s Ad Hoc Subcommittee on Economic Development, which discussed the engagement process during a meeting on Jan. 10, that Milone & MacBroom would provide impact assessments at the forum that will focus on four potential future uses for the property and their related zoning constraints, fiscal considerations, traffic, and parking assessments.
In 2016 Milone & MacBroom had provided the town with several conceptual development options for the 58-acre property, but according to McGovern those were done based on the existing zoning constraints of the site, which is in a residential zone with a special use permit.
The impact assessments to be provided at the forums “will talk more about what could be done even if it requires a zoning change,” McGovern told We-Ha.com.
The Feb. 21 forum will also address the town’s history with the property, and a review of existing conditions. Hart said that UConn has agreed to the release of information developed during the due diligence process.
The forum will be interactive, and will include breakout sessions.
As part of the outreach process, the town is mailing a Community Visioning postcard (see PDF below) to approximately 900 homes located within a quarter-mile of the property, inviting them to complete the survey and attend the forum.
Hart said that based on the results of the participatory engagement process, the Town Council will adopt Community Vision for the property.
The work on the Community Vision will be happening on a parallel track with the West Hartford’s budget consideration and approval process. “We want to proceed in a timely way, and will be presenting a report to the Town Council toward the end of March,” Hart said.
Hart said the overall goal of the process will be for the town to find a development partner that will purchase the property from UConn.
The University, which has an active website advertising the property, has already received a few inquiries and given a few tours, Hart said, but town officials have not been involved in those.
Any questions or written comments should be addressed to Town Planner Todd Dumais and can be emailed to [email protected] or mailed to: Town of West Hartford, Attn: Town Planner, 50 South Main St., Room 214, West Hartford, CT 06107.
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