By Josh LaBella
Approximately 60 people gathered in the Notre Dame High School auditorium to talk about some of the issues, questions, and improvements they have and would like to see addressed in Allingtown.
Assistant City Planner David Killeen said the workshop was designed by the planning and zoning commission and the steering committee to help stakeholders within the Allingtown area help guide city planning as they make a plan for the area.
“Once we come out of here we will have a list of topics and issues that we are going to address in the plan,” said Killeen. “This is the first of the sessions. The next session, which may not occur until later this year even, will be an opportunity for us to come back to share suggestion and recommendations for how we will address those issues.”
Killeen said the suggestions and recommendations will become the plan which will be reviewed by the planning and zoning commission.
People in attendance sat at tables each with a specific topic. Redevelopment of commercial areas, community facilities, neighborhood issues, and streets and sidewalks were on the docket. The groups discussed and debated for about an hour before presenting their ideas to the room.
John Biancur, the vice-chairman of the Planning and Zoning Commission, presented for one of the tables dedicated to neighborhood issue. He said one thing their table wanted to see were coffee shops and book stores in the downtown Allingtown area. They also talked about issues with University of New Haven students.
“We talked a lot about upkeep,” said Biancur. “Some lot of this had to do with UNH in terms of [absentee] landlords and students renters. And then you really see the effects of absentee landlords at the end of the semester when things are left behind. Some things get left in front of the house and it really becomes somewhat of an eyesore.”
Biancur said they also talked about speeding, especially near schools, around places like Forrest School and David Street. He said one idea floated was narrowing streets to control the speed of cars.
Kevin Vine, a member of the steering committee, presented for a table that discussed redevelopment of commercial areas. He said they wanted to see another grocery store brought to Allingtown as there is currently only one. He also brought up signage, which had been discussed at other tables, saying signs should be put up to identify Allingtown as its own area.
“We talked about possibly an open-air market,” said Vine. “That would allow popup retail – a little more local shopping. Retail, food and music would create a draw to West Haven.”
Vine said the table also discussed putting more art spaces in the area as well as repurposing old structures.
During one presentation by Kathy Coniff, representing the table on community facilities, John Galvin from the library interrupted and said, based on the current city budget the Allingtown Library would end up being closed down. When Coniff and Biancur told him the event was not the place for the discussion he claimed he was being censored by them.
Many concepts were discussed during the event. Some attendees wanted to see landscaping to beautify Allingtown, improvements and expansion to sidewalks and even a conversion of an unused Allingtown firehouse into a teen center.
Killeen said after the event he would compile the notes and ideas given and write up a report on them.
Biancur said there were many good ideas and some commonality among the five tables which meant a lot of the residents were on the same page.
“We wanted to get out of the residents what they wanted,” said Biancur. “The fact that there were a lot of common themes actually helps us to implement the plan of conservation and development through planning and zoning or any other means.”