Saturday, September 27, 2008

Cucia Park--Planning and Zoning

I was present at the Middletown Planning and Zoning meeting on Wednesday 9/24. What is posted by the Middletown Planning and Zoning Commission at the comments page for Cucia Park, on the Army Corps of Engineers web site, may be "true", but it misrepresents what transpired as far as this citizen is concerned.

On 9/24/2008 the publicly elected members of Middletown's Planning and Zoning Commission voted 5 to 1, with one abstention, to uphold an unofficial resolution that was read to them, regarding locating the ACOE project at the Cucia Park site. What the commissioners might have " felt" or "recognized", is a mystery to me. There was no "discussion" among commissioners on any of the points made in the "unofficial resolution". It was not discussed that this vote would be posted to this web site, by the commission itself. The topic was not on the written agenda for the P&Z.

It was clear to this observer, that more than half of the commission members were surprised when initially being asked to vote on this unofficially resolution. When one member asked why they where being asked to vote on this, the response was that it was the last chance for P&Z--given their meeting schedule and the tight time line of the ACOE--to show solidarity with the rest of the city in support of the Cucia Park site.

I was dismayed to see how this was handled for the following reasons.
1. What is the point of voting on an informal resolution?

2. Why would any planning and zoning commission make any kind of vote on any land use project without first hand knowledge, written documents, details, facts, figures, zoning codes, and property lines in front of them? That is what they have been elected to do.
3. Why would this site be preempted (which it seems might have happened) from at least the possibility of a formal presentation to the P&Z by the developer -- the Army?
4. Cucia Park may well have deserved the full support of the P&Z once it was fully examined by their own standards. Instead, I'm left to wonder.

It is unfortunate if the ACOE timeline does not fit with the P&;Z meeting schedule, but that does not obligate the Commission to vote to endorse the use of a site, that as a commission, they have not reviewed or discussed in all of it's ramifications and details. I would rather have seen a discussion about how to get around the timing problem, and a vote to withhold any endorsement, based on an unfortunate lack of information outside the control of the commission. Is this a binding endorsement? It was not on the agenda. Commissioners had no documents in front of them to go on. I do not think the public meeting was officially closed, before the commission vote was taken.

I hope I have conveyed that the "endorsement" posted by "Middletown Planning and Zoning" on the Cucia Park ACOE web site, did not meet any of the standards we have come to expect and anticipate from the oversight of elected officals and our planning and zoning commission.


fishmuscle said...

The Army Training Facility is the most publicized single land use decision in Middletown since the building of Route 9. Many commissioners, including Catherine Johnson, Barbara Plum, and Matt Lesser, and perhaps others who I don't recognize, have diligently attended the Army hearings (hats off to their dedication!). The P&Z staff has been present at many meetings, the press has covered them extensively. Many ordinary citizens of Middletown are informed about the 4 sites, and have publicly commented on what site is most suitable for the military facility ( I would be rather surprised and dismayed if Planning and Zoning commissioners do not know enough about the 4 different sites being considered for the army base to render an opinion. To ask that they withhold their opinions until after certain bureaucratic procedures have been done is to deny the citizens of Middletown the involvement of Planning and Zoning Commissioners in a very important land use decision.
Whether they agree or disagree with the results of the vote, Middletown residents should be grateful that a vote was taken and publicized, because they now know that the commissioners are engaged and they know the opinion of five commissioners. That cannot be said for the two commissioners who either abstained or voted against the endorsement of Cucia Park. Those two commissioners should make clear to the citizens which other site they prefer. Is it Mile Lane, the Bysiewicz Industrial Site, or Ken Dooley/Boardman Lane?

Anonymous said...

Exactly Fishmuscle, I think its correct to assume the Commissioners voting in favor knew enough about the sites to know what they were voting for. If everyone else is endorsing Cucia, Conservation Comm., Advisory Panel, Mayor, Chamber of Commerce its proper and correct for the city's land use agency to do the same.

Middletown Eye (Ed McKeon) said...

I have nothing against commission members making their opinions known. In fact, if commission members feel strongly one way or the other, they are certainly able, as commissioners to publish their individual opinions on the ACE site, along with their credentials.

What is unfortunate is that a vote was taken on a resolution not on the agenda, presented as an afterthought, and without notification of the public.

Do all Middletown commissioners only vote when they have full knowledge of the issue upon which they are voting? I'd say that is at least debatable.

I'd have to disagree with Fishmuscle that this endorsement is a positive development on its face.

What would have been positive, is that a resolution was offered only after it was listed on the agenda, public comment was invited, information was available to commission members, and some discussion or debate occurred.

The fact that commission members should know about Cucia Park doesn't guarantee they do, even when they voted on it. If they did know about the Park, and the deadlines the Army had set, why wasn't the resolution on the agenda in the first place?

I'd like to hope that the commission only makes decisions based on "sound land use planning," but I'm afraid I'd be disappointed.

Anonymous said...

This is unethical behavior no matter how well intentioned. For the PnZ to vote in any manner on this issue indicates their bias and they need to excuse themselves from this issue at future meetings. Further the city needs to have this matter investigated by the approriate ethics board. Just because a about this issue does not make them right. Just because polictians, other boards, and a bunch of screaming people have signed off on this issue does not make the actions of thet PnZ correct. It's outrageous to turn a public park over to development without due process. Let the Army purchase private property. The revised Boardman Road property is certainly suitable. Being bulldozed by politians and vocal citizens is just as bad as being bulldozed by the Army. This needs to stop now. The PnZ board needs to be recalled!

Anonymous said...

I agree that this request to "show" solidarity " is not ethical. Why bother having a P&Z if it is just a puppet of, well, what is it a puppet of? I am surprised at how many members just went along like sheep with the "resolution". Who knows whether they were the least informed on the issue or the most informed. It appears that a decree has come from on high that everyone should support the City's current choice for the Army base. Maybe it is the best possible choice. This is not some sort of sporting event requiring team unity and spirit. To say that this hasty, reactive endorsement is an example of responsible, good planning is like saying Boardman Lane is appropriately zoned.

Anonymous said...

Dogsbody of the Occupation
September 27, 2008 at 11:11 am

Bye bye Boardman Lane, hello Cucia Park. Is a celebration in order for the Advisory Panel’s diligence at finding Cucia Park in the nick of time to avert disaster? How come the AP could not find Mile Lane? It fits all the criteria but it would just be too mean spirited to rain on Middletown’s parade and point out its attributes at this late date. There are many Planning lessons that can be learned as a result of the past year’s experience. And how about the zoning issues that have cropped up under scrutiny of the Westfield area? Zoning is supposed to alert housing developers not to build fancy subdivisions in Industrial Zones. Did it work well here? A cookie-cutter approach has created a dismal quagmire with several IT properties now being recognized as practically undevelopable. So let’s pile on for the Cucia Park site and be happy that we have successfully accommodated BRAC 2005 as interpreted by the Army! Is it possible that this facility is in the best possible location and will bring much goodness to Middletown and its citizens? Rather far fetched. Could be much worse. But how much better for all if a logical, regional site selection plan had been in place instead of months of torture to achieve a celebration requiring false smiles of satisfaction.

Stephen H. Devoto said...

The advisory panel did not consider Mile Lane for the very simple reason that the army says they need "25 buildable" acres. They have been unable to find 25 buildable acres on parcels of 45 acres or more in total. We didn't think they could find 25 buildable acres on a parcel that is 23.7 acres in total. Apparently the army thinks they can.