The City Council by a 15-3 vote Monday night approved the sale of eight acres of Fairchild Wheeler golf course property to Sacred Heart University for $4 million that will allow the university a larger footprint to build on campus proper without developing the park land beyond basic maintenance. SHU needs the extra land to accommodate Fairfield zoning regulations. Fairchild Wheeler is owned by Bridgeport but located in Fairfield.
North End City Council members AmyMarie Vizzo-Paniccia, Michelle Lyons and Tom McCarthy voted against it. SHU’s dramatic growth has created a scratchy relationship with North End neighbors, especially as a result of partying students placing a burden on the city’s public safety. While campus proper is in Fairfield, some SHU dormitories and extended campus sit in Bridgeport. The transaction required 14 votes for approval because it involved the sale of park land. McCarthy, the City Council president, had said prior to the meeting that he understood the rationale behind the deal but had reservations, per the City Charter, that the money could be shifted into the city’s general fund instead of invested in park development. The additional revenue was not factored into the new budget year that starts July 1.
Deed restrictions prevent Sacred Heart from developing the golf course property, according to lawyers representing the city. Associate City Attorney Lisa Trachtenburg says there’s precedent for park sale funds going into the general fund going back to the early 1990s when the state purchased Beardsley Park and Beardsley Zoo from the city.
Sacred Heart, under the agreement passed, will also build six tennis courts at Veterans Memorial Park across the street from the campus on Park Avenue with access to city residents.
“This deal is very sensible to all involved,” said Mayor Joe Ganim in a statement. “Through this agreement, Sacred Heart gets more of a geographical footprint in Bridgeport which it needs in order to build more on its campus in Fairfield. The building that will result from this sale will also benefit the North End of Bridgeport as more students will be able to be housed on campus. The funds obtained will also benefit the taxpayers of Bridgeport while the land and the public’s access to it are also forever preserved. There are also many city residents who will get much enjoyment out of using the new state of the art tennis facility. It is a great deal that makes a lot of sense and I am grateful for our city council’s carefully considered, thoughtful action endorsing this idea.”
The council also approved by a 13-5 vote an agreement with the Town of Trumbull to resolve a dispute regarding fees the town pays Bridgeport for processing its wastewater.
Under the agreement already approved by Trumbull the town will pay Bridgeport’s Water Pollution Control Authority $1,373,196 in full settlement of all unpaid Trumbull sewer use charges for the period of July 1, 2012 through February 29, 2016.
Trumbull has sewers but no wastewater treatment plant. Its sludge has been processed in Bridgeport going back to the late 1960s.
Council members McCarthy, Lyons, Vizzo-Paniccia, Richard Salters and Mary McBride Lee voted against the agreement.
At the start of the meeting South End council member Jack Banta announced on a point of personal privilege that he was protesting the council session because Ganim has not appointed an African American to replace the retired Brian Rooney as fire chief. Banta made his point and then walked out of the council chambers.