A two-year DOT project, begun in April 2015, will permanently alter the rich historic character of the Farmington Center local historic district, an area that includes the campus of the internationally renowned Miss Porters School, the Hill-Stead Museum and the Stanley Whitman Museum (both National Historic Landmarks), and the Farmington Country Club. Over 28,000 cars a day pass through, making it the most heavily utilized entry into Farmington. The area is bisected by Rt. 4, and is bounded on the west by the Farmington River.
Realizing there was no plan in place for how the area should develop after DOT completed its work, the Town set about engaging the community, seeking their input. The Town Council, Planning & Zoning Commission, Economic Development Committee, and an active grass roots group known as Preservation NOW worked with consultants to facilitate planning workshops and the creation of a Farmington Center Plan. In recognition of the outstanding public participation process, CMSC was pleased to present the 2016 Award of Merit for Planning: Public Participation Component to the Town of Farmington.
2016 Award of Merit for Planning: Public Participation Component, sponsored by Webster Bank
Recipients: Town of Farmington, Preservation NOW, Farmington Historical Society, Miss Porters School, and consultants Mullin Associates and Dodson & Flinker.
Using an active public participation model, the Plan is reflective of the community’s input. The Town and Preservation NOW held three public workshops at Miss Porters School, adjacent to the historic area. To engage citizens, the town created a website and email database. They sent out email blasts, placed ads in local newspapers, discussed the event with civic organizations, and mailed a postcard to every home in Farmington. Allocating $10,000 to this endeavor, Farmington received a Partners in Preservation grant from the State Historic Preservation Office.
Residents also had the option to learn more about development options and provide feedback in person through a lively SWOT Analysis of the study area. The next day a walking tour and urban design classroom took place with over 60 participants. As part of the walking tour participants were educated about the next day’s model building process, where moveable small-scale replicas simulated possibilities such as removing out of scale buildings, putting in more appropriate buildings, connecting the areas with walkways and green spaces, and providing for parking in appropriate locations. Over 150 people, broken into 12 groups, participated in the model building workshops.
The result was a first-of-its kind plan for the Town of Farmington. In less than a year, it had a tremendous impact on the town, leaving residents with a higher expectation for this important gateway. In addition:
- Multiple developers are looking at parcels in the area to develop in accordance with the plan.
- Based on overwhelming public support the Town approached the DOT to modify their project, agreeing to pay the approximately $300,000 difference between standard DOT improvements and upgrades, and receiving a $350,000 STEAP grant to enhance the gateway in accordance with the plan.
- The Connecticut General Assembly approved, and Governor Malloy signed into law, a conveyance bill agreeing to convey a critical parcel, the 3-acre Parsons property (a former car dealership), to the Town of Farmington.
- The Town has a much higher level of appreciation for the planning process and the need for public participation, and has allocated an additional $50,000 for more detailed engineering and design work.