On Monday, October 6, Middletown's Common Council will introduce, debate and vote on a resolution, which, in its essence, strongly encourages the Army Corps of Engineers to build an Army Reserve Training Center in Middletown's Cucia Park, on Smith Street.
Consensus seems to point to deeding the park to the Army, as long as they'll take their sites off Boardman Lane. Most critics, including the Mayor, the city's site selection team, the Westfield Residents Association, the Planning and Zoning Commission, the Secretary of State, the Governor, and the State's Attorney General, are all in disbelief that the Boardman Lane site is still on the Army's shortlist.
But there may be a method to this madness. Keeping Boardman Lane on the list may be a masterful stroke of misdirection. With Boardman Lane selection as the focus of citizen and official antipathy, the Army and the city are free to offer Cucia Park to the public with little objection.
If the Army, by some chance, decides to buy and build on Boardman Lane, despite all this objections (including that now, of the Commander-in-Chief of Connecticut's National Guard), then they are truly showing their disregard for residents of Middletown, and state and local officials. This is, of course, a disregard for which they have been chastised in the recent past when they selected sites in other parts of town, kept town officials in the dark about plans, and conducted an invite-only press conference.
If the Army builds in Cucia Park, which seems to many to be the best location to suit their needs, then a marginal, fractional park attached to abandoned industrial property will disappear, and Middletown will hopefully get some substantial funds to apply to other town needs.
And if the Army builds on Cucia Park, let's remember some of the salient facts, and some of the unanswered questions:
- If the public never objected, the Army Reserve Training Center may have been built on open space in Maromas or Westfield
- If the public never objected, the Army Corps of Engineers would never have had to alter the process they were using to choose a site
- The mayor and the Chamber of Commerce supported a site selection in Maromas until a public outcry caused them to change their opinion. They should be praised for having the strength and wisdom to change their opinions
- The Army refuses to release a legal opinion which Connecticut's Attorney General feels is public information guaranteed to be public through the Freedom of Information Act
- The Army refuses to adhere to local land use and inland wetland regulations
- The Army arrived at its first two site selections without alternatives. They were singular selections. Now the Army has four possible sites, but refuses to drop Boardman Lane. How is it that they were able to focus on singular sites before, but now must adhere to a four-site list?
- Cucia Park is a small, pocket park of approximately four acres, surrounded by another thirty acres of abandoned industrial land. Will remediation be an issue with this former industrial site?
- The Army doesn't like remediation because it is too costly
- How did the Army decide on Cucia Park as a possible site? Is it normal for the Army Corps to come into a town and set their sites on a city park?
- Once the Army secures a site, it becomes federal property, and the Army is free to do whatever it pleases with the site, as long as it adheres to federal environmental law in building on the site. However, the purpose and the function of the activities on the property can change if the Army so decides, and the city and the state have no recourse to object.
- The argument that Middletown has more than it's share of "off the tax role" properties has been forgetten by nearly all.
While the Common Council resolution is written, its only with substantial public comment, and vigorous debate that the future of the Army's relationship with Middletown will be shaped with fairness to all parties.