Located in the heart of Franklin County, the town of Fairfax was chartered in 1763 as part of the New Hampshire Land Grant and named after a close friend of George Washington.
Fairfax has struggled with smart growth and development over the past decade. It is the fastest growing town in Franklin County, and most of this growth is residential. However, most new development is taking place in formerly rural areas. The town has lost approximately one-third of its active dairy farms in the past eight years as they are sold off to developers. Compounding the problem is Fairfax’s lack of a strong center. Although the town has a state-designated village center, many of the shops in it are gone, and there is no traditional village green to cluster buildings around. New development in the village is difficult because the municipal water and sewer system is at capacity.
Despite these challenges, Fairfax residents are moving to preserve the rural character of their town. New development regulations approved this month support smart growth by encouraging Planned Unit Developments, which preserve open space and cluster development into compact, pedestrian-friendly areas.
Fairfax also has organizations acting to strengthen the community. Citizens for Fairfax Community Inc. is a non-profit that grew out of a meeting in which residents realized that despite demand, there was no dedicated place for community events. It is working to build a community center to host everything from flu shot immunizations to yoga classes.
Fairfax is a great example of how it is both difficult and important to build and maintain a strong village center and foster a sense of community. Fairfax grew rapidly in the last decade, and in the years to come, it will grow smartly.