Sunday, October 5, 2008

The path to Cucia Park


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.


Anonymous said...

Pack Mentality

The City "found" Cucia Park when the Army rejected the City's Maromas sites and selected Boardman Lane. Everyone in the Planning Department had been joyfully predicting that the Army would select the City's Developmental Dream site in the wilderness of River Road. When those hopes were dashed, the previously eager-to-deforest-and-develop-Maromas City leaders became environmentally conscious defenders of sedge grasses and box-turtles and vigorously joined the protests of the Residents reacting to the choice of Boardman Lane. The wetlands! The wildlife! The blasting! A miraculous, much welcomed awakening… Advisory Panels were convened; helpful websites were created, all in a twinkling. The search for the least harmful site was on. (By now, only the rah rah Chamber of Commerce was still gushing that the facility would be anything other than another disastrous burden to Middletown's shaky economy.) How very lucky for the Advisory Panel that Cucia Park was found. Was it incompetence rather than malfeasance or ulterior motives that prevented it from having been discovered by anyone anywhere in the City during the long months of driving the Army off Freeman Road and which included the first of several rejections by the Army of the Maromas sites? Cucia Park became the overwhelmingly least harmful site after much numerical voodoo and anxiety and was shored up by yet another "strong 2nd place" offering of the often rejected River Road. Fear is driving the City to push the site it considers least harmful to its interests. No Advisory Panel was needed to find this site which conveniently overlooked Mile lane… There is no shortage of bad sites. In fact, there is not a good place. Let's get real. The Army base is bad for Middletown. The City should have united and demanded a Regional site search instead of fostering neighborhood hostility, harboring development ambitions and crawling like dogs at the feet of the always enthusiastic Chamber of Commerce.

Jasper Cane

argos said...

Pavlov's Dog Beating a Dead Horse

Dick Blumenthal seemed to be asking the army: "what part of 'if' don't you understand"? We might similarly ask those continually pushing the River Road site: "what part of 'no' don't you understand"?

Anonymous said...

Ill bet in every area where a site was rejected you might find a wealthy political kingpin with ties to it there's a thought...