Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Economic Development Committee Approves Parking Plan

WRITTEN BY: Bill Flood

At it's regular monthly meeting, The Economic Development Committee approved a plan to generate new parking spaces in the city’s North End, amid enthusiastic support from some local businesses.

The plan was presented Monday by Director of Planning, Conservation & Development William Warner. It would connect a parking lot on Grand Street, behind the Community Health Center now under construction, to a proposed new lot behind and next to the outdoor patio of Eli Cannon’s Tap Room.

The city would acquire three properties, one of which contains a 2 family house which would be demolished. The old Midstate Auto building would also be demolished, and the city would apply for a federal EPA grant to clean-up the ‘brownfield’ left behind. The final piece is an unused portion of a back lot on Clinton Avenue. Much of the property in question has been virtually unused since the 1930’s, according to Warner, who researched old aerial photos and land records.

In a response to member Dan Drew’s question about what type of contaminants might be found in the brown field, Warner said “We’re not overly concerned” based on a records search.

Some costs of obtaining and demolishing the properties would be offset by the Community Health Center, but the city would still need to approve a $440,000 bond. The cost of actually constructing the lot after the property is obtained would be about 100 to 150-thousand dollars. Committee member David Bauer noted the plan lacked an overall fiscal projection. “Give me a price tag”, he said. Warner said he could provide a spread sheet.

During the public portion of the meeting, Eli Cannon‘s owner Phil Ouellette said that not only for Eli’s, but for any new business in the North End, “clearly parking is the issue”, and heartily endorsed the plan. He was joined in his support by Harold Murphy, representing the building across Main Street that until recently housed the “Little Tibet” store, and by Jeff Pugliese representing the Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce.

The committee voted to approve the plan, 3-1. Bauer was the only ‘nay’ vote.

The committee also got updates on a now-vacant property at 20 Portland Street. The committee is seeking proposals for the small lot from neighboring property owners and other interested parties. The deadline was extended for proposal because of concerns that not all of the neighbors had received the information from the city about the request for ideas. The North End Action Team is working on disseminating the information to all residents.

Warner also appraised the committee of the status of the proposed new city parking garage. The city is still w
aiting for DOT to approved the fee negotiated with design firm URS and the city for the design contract. He expected that approval within the coming weeks.
Warner said that the actual design of the garage “will be a completely public process.”


Anonymous said...

Hard to understand. The city transfers ownership of parking lots to the Community Health Center not only for its new building but also for its ownership and use at the Its only Natural Site and now has to acquire more debt to provide more parking in the same area??

David Bauer said...

Good luck trying to understand. I have been trying for over five years and still cannot grasp Economic Development done Middletown Style.

Director Warner did supply a cost projection on 8/10 as follows:

City contribution - $540,000
CHC contribution - $100,000
State/Federal - $150,000

The city contribution is still optimistic as it does not include any engineering, design, or the inevitable "contingencies" costs.

Once constructed, and it will be constructed (everyone loves the deal), I have no idea how much control the City Parking Department has over these ~60 spaces, or if CHC has control over these spaces.

I still have trouble with a process where all parties are part of the concept and negotiations, except the taxpayer, who must foot the bill.

Who was involved?

Community Health Center
Chamber of Commerce
City Attorney
Bill Warner & Planning Department
City Bond Attorney
Current Property Owners(2)
Mayors Office
Adjacent Property Owners
Public Works Department

Can you or I suggest an alternate plan or a substitute use for the taxpayers' money?

The Common Council will have a yes/no vote in September - that's all.

Anonymous said...

The change in downtown and in the north end in the last 15 years has been amazing. Obviously they are making the right moves. Middletown is the envy of downtowns across New England. To bad you don't get it David. Your Mayor, the last Mayor and all your other Council people do.

Anonymous said...

ION development was the best thing to happen to the city in years.

Anonymous said...

So lets follow up a little. The City waves inspection fees for the new building at a cost of $ 150,000 then gets $100,000 back in contribution to build more parking. Great math. We need these guys in Washington.

Anonymous said...

True economic development is more than rearranging the chairs on the deck. Little is accomplished when you consolidate many existing buildings in an area into one leaving other buildings vacant. It may be attractive and efficient but leaves large vacant buildings.

David Bauer said...

Hi 7:09 - I am not against a robust downtown Middletown, but I question the City's role as developer. In the case of the Harding Building, the City's power of eminent domain was held over the gas station's owner (who had hopes of development) to facilitate a property sale to the City. Unknown to the general public, Mr. Harding was already working on a development plan, with the City, before the City even owned the property.

In the case of CHC, was the public apprised of this second phase of City investment when a City Parking Lot was conveyed to CHC, or when $146,000 of building permit fees were waived? Are there any addition phases of taxpayer contribution to this project in the future that are not publicly known?

Let's cross the street and look at the Richmond/Wharfside project and the Broad Park project. Both were fueled with public dollars. What type of return have we seen from these projects?

If all the money that the taxpayers have put into this neighborhood is an investment, there will be an increase in the Grand List. If there is no revenue increase to the City, then how long can you ask the other neighborhoods to keep sending their tax dollars?

I want every area of Middletown to thrive, but as our resources to accomplish that diminish, we need a better public process. For example, what if the $7.2 Million, for the 17 units of Broad Park, had been used to upgrade the multi-family housing stock throughout the North End?

I am not confident that the City is making the investments that will make these affected neighborhoods financially sustainable.

Anonymous said...

Let's see the City is getting a developer to put up millions to build a new building on Main street - in addition to the building were ION is located and a new building where the accountant building collapsed - and we as taxpayers have spent about 600k in city money -

Sounds like a good deal - don't know the politics or who David Bauer is - but he sounds like a politician who wants to either show he's smarter than us or just, wants to be a fly in the ointment

But that's his right - just don't get what the street would look like if he were in charge

Anonymous said...

I love the cool handwriting of the owner of Eli Cannons. That's all.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Bauer raises some good questions. After all there is 24 Million of public money( city and state tax credits) in Warfside Commons, 7.2 million for Broad Park, parking lots for private developers ( not sure what this costs). Remember Warfside got a 30 year sliding tax abatement on taxes...and on and on..Not good for the base and not much leverage for the dollars.

Anonymous said...

what is the Broad Park development?