Trumbull committee opts to look at Hardy Lane for senior center

Photo of Amanda Cuda
The Trumbull Senior Center on Priscilla Place.

The Trumbull Senior Center on Priscilla Place.

John Burgeson / Hearst Connecticut Post

TRUMBULL — A new senior center on town-owned property on Hardy Lane took a baby step closer to reality at a Sept. 14 meeting, where a building committee voted to proceed with a traffic study and environmental, architectural and engineering analysis at the proposed location.

In a press release put out following the meeting, committee chair Lori Hayes-O'Brien clarified what the vote meant.

“The building committee’s vote does not mean a senior center will definitely be built on Hardy Lane,” Hayes-O’Brien stated. “It’s important to say that as emphatically as we can. There is a multi-step process before any site can even be recommended to the Town Council for consideration. This vote gives the committee the opportunity to conduct the in-depth studies needed to clarify whether this particular site should continue along that process.”

Yet to many of those who spoke in public comment portion of the meeting, even continuing to examine the site as a possibility would be a mistake.

Kate Luedtke described the traffic flow at the bus stop near her house on Church Hill Road. She said she was worried about the possibility of the town building a senior center on town-owned property at Hardy Lane, not far from her home.

"I watch cars just whip by and I worry about the children," Luedtke said.

She said it seemed to make no difference to passing motorists even when a bus was at the stop letting children off and on.

"It’s a big concern, adding another location to this spot when when we’re already worried about safety," Luedtke said.

Richard White, another Church Hill Road resident, took issue with the fact that, at the meeting's start, Hayes-O'Brien described the project as "a senior center that meets some community needs" rather than a combination senior center and community center.

"It’s an interesting distinction when your own architect titles and captions his proposals 'Community Center and Senior Center' and a recent staff proposal was titled ‘Senior center and Community center,’ " he said. "If this committee is going to reduce the community center elements, then other smaller and already developed properties should be considered first and foremost."

White also presented a petition against building on the Hardy Lane parcel, saying it had more than 300 signatures.

Several sites had been considered for the center, including the Long Hill Administration Building,  Indian Ledge Park, the current senior center at Priscilla Place, Twin Brooks Park, Old Mine Park and the Tashua Knolls recreation area.

Hardy Lane — a 25-acre town-owned parcel of land — had been near the top of the list for a while, as an architect hired for the project rated all the sites on their appropriateness for the project, and Hardy Lane scored highest. But the site has come under fire from residents like Luedtke, some of whom fear putting the senior center there will disrupt surrounding neighborhood, create traffic problems and potentially cause a financial hardship to the town.

During the summer, the building committee agreed to ask some town officials to reexamine the possibilities of using other sites for the project. In August, Public Works Director George Estrada recommended that either Hardy Lane or Long Hill Administration Building be used for the senior center.

At the most recent meeting, several committee members argued that they needed to at least pick a site to examine more closely, or else the town will never be able to move forward with building a new senior center.

That's a crucial need, according to several seniors who also spoke during the meeting's public comment portion, including Bob Abercrombie of Pleasant Street. Abercrombie said the current senior center on Priscilla Lane is in terrible disrepair.

"There’s cracked steps in the back (of the building)," he said. "There’s duct tape on the floor to hold some of the tiles down. The building is just plain old. It had two gas leaks in the past two weeks."

Building committee member Dean Fabrizio thanked him and other seniors who spoke for reminding him that replacing the senior center is something that needs to be done soon.

Fabrizio said he and the other committee members visited the center "about three years ago when we started doing this and it was pretty bad back then."

Fellow committee member Dave Galla also was in favor of selecting a site to examine more closely. "We got a pretty clear understanding of which properties had more pros and cons," he said. "We need to make a decision."

Galla said he understood the concerns of the residents who object to Hardy Lane, but reasoned that "There’s never going to be a perfect site. There’s never going to be a perfect time."

But other committee members said they wanted to take a closer look at other properties before moving forward with recommending further analysis of Hardy Lane. 

Committee member Ted Chase said he didn't attend the meeting at which Estrada spoke, but took issue with some elements of his presentation, adding he didn't get an accurate picture from the earlier presentation. Chase said he feels that Wagner Tree Farm, where the Trumbull Arts and Nature Center is, is a better choice. 

Throughout the meeting, Hayes-O'Brien constantly emphasized that ordering soil tests, a traffic study and other analysis of Hardy Lane didn't mean that the senior center would be built there.

Committee member Dawn Cantafio echoed those thoughts.

"If we go further and investigate it we may rule out Hardy Lane," she said.

In addition to further studying the site, there are several other steps before Hardy Lane is officially approved for the project.

According to the statement released by Hayes-O'Brien, "written approval from the Planning and Zoning Commission and the Health Director must be submitted to the Town Council.  Approval from other town boards and departments, such as the Inland Wetlands and Watercourses Commissions, may also be necessary. Preliminary plans and specifications for the proposed building must be submitted to the Town Council for approval as well."

Ultimately, the committee voted 6-2 to proceed with the analysis of Hardy Lane as a potential site for the senior center. Chase and committee member Michael Buswell were the dissenting votes.

The next regular meeting of the Community Facilities Building Committee is 7 p.m. Oct. 12 at Town Hall. It is open to the public.