OXFORD - It's one of few criticisms that some have of the aesthetic beauty of this quaint New England town: there really is no defined town center.
That could change if the town locks up a $500,000 grant from the Connecticut Main Street Investment Fund run by the state's Small Town Economic Assistance Program.
"I think we have a great shot at obtaining this money because of the fact that we don't have much of a defined town center and that this could help entice commercial businesses to the area," said town grants administrator/writer Kathleen O'Neil, who boasts of a more than 90 percent success rate when writing grants for the town. "I believe this is a wonderful opportunity to enhance the center of town."
The Board of Selectmen last week unanimously gave O'Neil authority to apply for the grant. The program awards up to $500,000 for towns that have plans for the development of a town center. The funding can be used for sidewalks, lighting, signage, benches and other amenities.
The state defines a town commercial center as "A town's central business district or neighborhood commercial district that is the community's or neighborhood's 'hub' for well-integrated mix of commercial retail, commercial office, governmental, community, instructional, entertainment and residential activities. A vibrant town commercial center is a sustainable and walkable compact mix of land uses and transportation choices that attract residents and visitors to frequent the activities located at the center."
Oxford's proposed plan calls for enhancements from the to Old State Road No. 3, which is about a quarter-mile past the intersection for Route 67 and Route 42. The plan calls for a sidewalk, as well as decorative park benches and light poles; those would be placed on the same side of the road as the Town Hall and . There could also be signs that identify the area as "Oxford Center" or something similar.
O'Neil said the town should hear by the end of September whether it has received some or all of the grant money. If approved, the town would have to apply with land use boards before construction begins. That could happen sometime in the spring, if all goes as planned, O'Neil said.