Wednesday, July 1, 2009

City solicits bids to develop Maromas land

The Department of Planning has issued a Request for Proposals (RFP) to develop 256 acres of city-owned open space in Maromas. This land consists of 4 parcels which are more or less contiguous from the River to just across Reservoir Road, and a 5th parcel south of Brooks Road. The State Deed Restriction allows the development of the land for agriculture, hiking trails, camping, and active recreation.

History of the land
The land in question was purchased by the General Hospital for the Insane of the State of Connecticut, in a series of transactions between 1866 and 1949. The Hospital, now known as Connecticut Valley Hospital (CVH), used much of the land as a farm for its own use until World War II. In 2005, the State gave the properties to the City, with a restriction in the deed that would preserve them as open space. Currently, the properties include farm fields and forests. The properties are abutted by a few houses, mostly on their western borders. To the east are the forests of Maromas, which have remained largely undeveloped due to its rugged terrain.

This spring, the City granted an easement across some of the land to the Buckeye Pipeline company, for them to run a fuel pipe to the new Kleen Energy plant. Bill Warner, City Planner, told the Economic Development Committee (EDC) at their June 9th meeting that the pipeline project would clear much of the area, suggesting that it would be a good time for the city to see what interest there would be in developing the land. The EDC then voted to advertise an RFP for the site.

Solicitation of proposals
The RFP clearly delineates the restrictions on the land. The State deed restricts the use to "agriculture, parks, natural areas, forests, camping, fishing, wetlands preservation, wildlife habitat, swimming, hiking, or other active recreational purposes." The parcels are zoned R-45 (residential lots of greater than 45,000 square feet) and RF (Riverfront). Those zones allow, by Special Exception, "parks, playgrounds, playfields, golf courses, boating areas, community building, developed open space, such as arboreta, botanical and zoological gardens and similar recreational uses." The RF zone allows, by Special Exception, marinas and boatyards.

There are quite extensive requirements for proposals. These include:
  • A description of the developer's business plan and the proposed future use(s) of the property
  • Anticipated investment in the property
  • Letters from Banks and other financial institutions demonstrating the developer's financial capacity
  • A $10,000 fully refundable deposit (bank check or letter of credit)
I asked Warner whether a Land Trust or other conservation group would be discouraged from a hiking trails proposal. He suggested that a non profit could propose something without the formal RFP process, but said, "The RFP really is designed for income generating uses which can develop the land."

Active recreation is prominently featured in the RFP, "Active recreation is usually a structured (organized) activity requiring the use of physical facilities. Activities in this category include, but are not limited to, baseball diamonds, soccer fields, dog parks, golf courses, playgrounds, and boat ramps."

An 18-hole golf course was proposed nearly 50 years ago for some of the land that is the subject of this RFP. This course, which would have included all of parcels 3 and 4 in the map above, is no longer possible because some of the included land is now the site of Middlesex Community College. However, according to a 2007 report from the Planning Department, the combination of parcels 3 and 4 with parcels 1 and 2 would be sufficient for an 18-hole course. The report also sketches out other possible uses such as baseball and soccer fields.

Evaluation of proposals

The deadline for proposals is July 31st. All proposals will then be reviewed by EDC before going before the full Common Council.

29 comments:

NOBO said...

I think a golf course would be a great idea for this area. Middletown already has baseball and soccer fields that are under-utilized. Plus it would require more City resources to maintain additional fields. A golf course would be maintained by the owner-not taxpayer dollars.It's green, it's clean, it's a draw for the City, and it's taxable.Sounds like a win-win scenario.

Anonymous said...

Middletown really needs its own golf course, we have 4 high school teams and they all practice out of town !!

Anonymous said...

Actually, the pipeline easements, if approved by the Connecticut Siting Council, hug the boundaries or remain uncleared due to drilling under the wetlands. I am not certain why Mr. Warner made the assertion about a lot of "clearing."

Norman said...

To NOBO:

I won't pass judgment on whether M'town needs a golf course, but I will on the claim that a golf course is "green" and "clean." As I understand things, golf courses typically use horrendous amounts of water, chemical fertilizers and herbicides, are likely constantly maintained using gasoline-powered engines and provide nearly no habitat for native flora or fauna. That certainly doesn't meet my definition of either green or clean.

Anonymous said...

Goodbye, nature. Hello, developers.

NOBO said...

To Norman-Gasoline engines will soon be required to meet air quality standards, they can get water from the river (it won't run out),and use organic fertilizers and herbicides.Would you rather have acres of storage units or warehouses or prisons instead? Something is going to be built there.

Anonymous said...

New golf courses dont use allot of chemicals or water, they dont have emerald green fairways, they are back to nature using intgrated pest managment and native species which dont require allot of water. They provide great habitat for native species of birds and animals.

Anonymous said...

Aren't there already soccer fields under development on Long Hill Rd where the wetlands was filled in and De Rita is now using as a place to process and store fill?

Danger Dan said...

Mountain bike trails.

Anonymous said...

How in the heck is developed land still open green space? I don't care if its a ball field or dog park, once man makes his mark it is no longer "natural" -
This is crazy that this last natural spot in Middletown be developed at all!! Middletown is talking out of both sides of its mouth trying to make up for the sale of Cucia Park with green space, and selling Maromas to developers- I agree a golf course is bs, no where near natural, and at $50 a game on average for golf who can afford that? And why assume that they would let the dear high school students play there for free?
The city wouldn't extend City lines throughout that area and now they want to develop it? So i guess Larry McHugh of the Chamber of Commerce will get his way and have Saybrook Road turned into another Washington Street. SAVE MAROMAS MIDDLETOWN'S LAST GREAT PLACE!

Anonymous said...

Keep this green space natural - must all of the available land in Middletown be developed? Let's leave something the way nature intended! And a golf course is just for those who can afford the greens fees - let's have a space that ALL can enjoy?

Anonymous said...

Who can afford $50 a game? Have you ever tried to get a tee time?
As for the school kids, you want to sell food and beer- you let the school teams play for free.

Anonymous said...

This grand development scheme continues a long, short-sighted planning vision that the highest use of unoccupied land is to produce revenue. I hope any such golf-coursing of our landscape, utilizing every acre received from the state, would require a referendum. Who would the City be partnering with in this large development and would such a project really benefit the citizens of Middletown?

Anonymous said...

The proposed oil pipeline route is restricted to parcel #2 and does not require much clearing. The routing of the pipeline, requested by City officials in 2008, might indicate some foreknowledge of possible development interest, but to say that substantial clearing generated this recent RFP does not seem likely.

Judy said...

Wow! How can anyone think a golf course is back to nature? It's a manicured open space!

Also, the only people who would use it would be golfers.

What percentage of the population of this area are golfers? 5-10%?

Why does this property have to be developed? It's beautiful just the way it is...does the town need money?

Anonymous said...

Middletown is a town with NO VISION. The P&Z committee doesn't look forward at all. Please leave Maromas alone - natural woods and forests are a thing of beauty and Middletown might find that 60 or 80 years from now, when every other town has developed their natural space into golf courses that big swaths of woodland might draw a nice hiking crowd. Oh right - P&Z doesn't look to the future - they only see the now.

David Bauer said...

I have heard that a lot of this parcel is some of the best farming land we have in Connecticut.

Why don't we consider large scale Community gardening and other passive agricultural uses for this property?

It might be more important that we have a place for our local Vo-Ag team to play for free than our golf teams.

At the very least, we should establish a "community value" on this land that any development proposal has to exceed to be considered.

Anonymous said...

Sounds like Middletown is going fishing again.

But with a fish already on the line.

Where was the RFP published? In golf course industry publications?

Once again, Middletown is showing a lack of understanding in the planning process. Shouldn't we be stating what we want (or don't want) on the property, and only then begin issuing RFP's to meet those goals?

Ironically, my guess is that someone already has a good idea what they'd like to see on that property.

And it's not an organic farm.

Then there's this from the National Golf Foundation, the "downward trend in the number of golfers in the U.S. continued in 2008, falling 3%, from 29.5 million in 2007 to 28.6 million in 2008, according to NGF's annual golf participation study. For research purposes, a golfer is defined as a person age 6 or above who plays at least one round of golf in a given year. The study of 42,000 Americans was fielded by Synovate, a global market research firm in Chicago, Ill.

Decreases were seen in both Core and Occasional golfer categories. Core golfers (age 6+, eight or more rounds a year) dropped 4.5%, from 17.3 million to 16.6 million. And Occasional golfers (age 6+, one to seven rounds a year) dropped 1.5%, from 12.2 million to 12.0 million."

The organization also reports that "up to 20% of the country's golf courses are at risk, based on their own financial overview. An NGF survey shows rounds are down 13% compared to a year ago and memberships have declined 17%."

Now, doesn't an organic farm in a time of potential hunger seem like a better idea?

Anonymous said...

Yes, Judy, most of the people who use the golf course probably would be golfers. Most of the people who use baseball fields probably are baseball players.Most of the people who use soccer fields probably are soccer players. Most of the NIMBY's who live in the Maromas area probably cut down some beautiful trees to build their homes and plant their manicured lawns.Maybe they blasted too.

Karen Nichols said...

I do not want Middletown to develop this land in any way whatsoever.

Leave this as open space, the few remaining spaces in Middletown.

joseph getter said...

I am absolutely opposed to any development of the Maromas area. It would be much better for all of us (as well as the forest and its wildlife) to leave the entire place untouched (aside from some hiking and biking trails, as we have now).

I agree with others here, a great forest is a draw for visiting hikers, and can be promoted as a city attraction. Clearing the area destroys that attraction.

It seems that the City is jumping ahead to turn this over to developers, without considering how many in town are against that. In the RFP (link in original post), Bill Warner writes, "It is the City's desire to lease this property ... and transform the property ..." Really? Perhaps this is the position of the City, but certainly not the desire of many of its inhabitants.

Anonymous said...

One does not need the olfactory powers of a beagle or a bloodhound to detect the aroma of graft and corruption implicit in this RFP. The land sharks are circling, certain that City officials are eager to facilitate and participate in the golf course frenzy that periodically grips Middletown's greatest planning minds. Who cooks up these comedic interludes?

An RFP to attract an organic farmer might be phrased just a little differently. Some creativity and imagination would be necessary. Ooops, these words and Middletown should not be used in the same sentence.

Some of these properties appear to be hay fields, also known as grasslands, which are rapidly diminishing habitats for wildlife. Maybe we should value and keep some hay fields? Oh yeah, I forgot, the City is eager to sell our future for Big Bucks now.

Look at the vast LOL sum, $45,000, that may be realized by permanently devaluing one of these parcels with an oil pipeline easement. The milking of the Cash Cow, our recreational open space gifted to the City from the state, is about to commence!

This is no time for sleeping dogs to lie.
Jasper Cane

Eye M said...

An Ultimate Frisbee course could be a comprimise.

argos said...

DEVELOP MAROMAS seems to be a mantra at City Hall. Just a year ago the Mayor and the Development Director tried very hard to convince the Army Corps of Engineers to put a military base in Maromas. This would have resulted in sewers being extended south and could well have led to a big box store on lower Saybrook Road. We should certainly think carefully before we do something irrevocable with this undeveloped land. It's clear that there is money to be made here (some for the City and more by some entrepreneur). And for politicians to get elected it helps to be able to keep taxes from going up too fast and to be useful to campaign contributors. So at City Hall, finding a use for this orphan Maromas land may seem like a great opportunity. Pro-development forces are already beginning to have their say. Those of us who prefer conserving what wilderness we have left must also make sure we are heard.

Anonymous said...

Middletown is a good place to live now and, judging from the lively commentary engendered by this issue, it has the possibility of becoming even better! Behind the scenes political maneuvering, often motivated by financial gain, has been as reliable as the tide in Middletown's past, but it need not be a continuing "situation normal" in the future.

Anonymous said...

This is outrageous! After fighting off the Army, Middletown now wants to develop Maromas? I expect a total outrage at this suggestion. If Maromas wasn’t suitable for a benign Army installation why would we want private developers to run amuck! A golf course? That has the worst impact of any development. I expect the entire community to object to any and all proposals. I expect our elected officials such as Blumenthal and Bysewicz to lead the charge. Let’s not forget DeLaura, she should be good for some public hearings (is it an election year?). As soon as Wesleyan is back in session we should be able to count on the support of the Wesleyan community!

Eye Spy (Anthony R. Lancia, Jr.) said...

It appears by most the comments posted that we already have the support of the Wesleyan Community, this privilage of voting on Middletown issues by temporary residents is the biggest scam and slap in the face to lifelong residents.
When serving your country in the Military you are allowed to cast absentee ballots back home in your town of origin not vote in local politics of the place you are stationed, so why is it that we allow Wesleyan to vote????
The Wesleyan Community does enough damage to this town through their own inner circles and financial abilities, so please lets not be so naive to the way the town is run.
It is not just the deep engrained politicians of this town that get their way.

Anonymous said...

As I see it, the problem is not Wesleyan voters or full-time resident voters having too much or too little influence over town affairs but that no voters at all have any real participation in these "deals". Instead, we have elected officials who like nothing better than acting like puffed-up power brokers behind closed doors with like-minded cronies. Which of these folks is "behind the curtain" at any given time, seems to rotate among a small, intimate circle. Appearances of a transparent democratic process are kept up but the actual wheeling and dealing "consultations" that control decisions are hidden from the public and keep most of us looking for clues in the dark.

Eye Spy (Anthony R. Lancia, Jr.) said...

Bravo Anonymous, I must say that I cannot totally disagree but if you read my post it covers both sides.
Appathy is a huge problem amongst voters nationwide but so is integrity amongst politicians so as the problem exists and expands how do we stop the bleeding?
It is not by shunning thy neighbor through political and or financial strength, you see I do believe we fight the same battle but through a differant view.