Friday, February 8, 2013

Historic Acheson Mansion or Red Lobster?

Ed McKeon is a Middletown Eye editor, and resident of Pearl Street.  He is challenging the expansion of the MX Zone, and recommended that former residences in the ID Zone be regulated as a residential zone with adaptive reuse allowed.  This is an opinon piece.

On Wednesday, February 13, Middletown's Planning and Zoning Commission will entertain a proposal to change Middletown's MX zone (mixed-use residential) to include construction of high-volume, fast food, drive-thru restaurants and retail stores.

Currently, the MX zone allows for residential buildings, and low-volume commercial development like offices, private clubs and neighborhood stores.  The proposed change is a monumental leap into commercial development that is likely to have a significant negative impact on traffic, air quality, noise pollution and the character of residential neighborhoods in Middletown.

What's more, MX zoning is used for properties zoned ID (Institutional Development), when the institution that owns those properties sells, or no longer controls them.  So, properties formerely owned by Wesleyan University, or Middlesex Hospital are actually governed by the MX zone.

So, for example, the lovely stretch of historically significant homes along Washington Street, from Jackson to Wetmore, most of which is in the National Registry of Historic Places, listed as the Washington Street Historic District, would suddenly be open to the likes of Burger King, KFC, Papa John's, Subway and other such fast food outlets which rely on drive-thru windows.

One of those homes, on the Eastern-most border of the Historic District, is the Reverend E. Campion Acheson House, built in 1916, where Dean Acheson, the Secretary of State under President Harry Truman, lived.

That house is currently occupied by Wesleyan University, and more particularly by students, who live there in a program house called Buddhist House.

But a perfect storm arises.  Wesleyan University has made it known that they are anxious to sell all their property North of Washington Steet (including several homes used as Wesleyan residences), and this change in zoning will come before Middletown's Zoning Commission.  If it passes, one may soon be able to stand in the Indian Hill burying ground, and gaze across the street not to a handsome Neo-Classical Revival home, but, a Red Lobster or an Olive Garden.

You've got my sympathy if you enjoy cheap, mediocre corporate seafood, and are smitten by the plastic charm of Red Lobster, but you won't convince me that another corporate chain will do anything positive for the character, or the economy of Middletown.

I encourage you to attend the planning and zoning meeting, and to make your opinion known.  For more information, check out No Strip Mall, No Wrecking Ball.

The Middletown Planning and Zoning Commission meets Wednesday, February 13, 7 PM, in City Hall's Council Chambers to deliberate two significant zoning proposals.


Anonymous said...

What can we do to voice our opposition if we are not able to attend this meeting?

Middletown Eye (Ed McKeon) said...

If you can't attend the meeting address a letter to the Planning and Zoning commission.

Anonymous said...

Does P&Z have an email address (one they actually read!)?

Anonymous said...

Ever notice that when one party cannot win an argument they introduce additional non-factual information to divert attention?
Anonymous (not related)

Anonymous said...

Middletown needs affordable restaurants. A Red Lobster would be a great addition!

Josh K. Mitchell said...

You had me at Papa John's. Yum.

Really, I don't come to Middletown to see the old buildings on Washington Street anyhow. I come for 5 Guys.

Anonymous said...

Acheson couldnt have been born here. Article said house was built in 1916 but Acheson was born in 1893.

Anonymous said...

Josh Mitchell raises a good point. A part of this conflict is about attracting visitors into the city versus addressing the needs and wants of the people who already live here. By nature these two are different and lead to divergent paths and goals.

Middletown Eye (Ed McKeon) said...

Anonymous 8:52

Ever notice that anonymous posters make snide remarks?

Anonymous 10:53

McDonalds, Taco Bell, KFC, Dominos not to mention the many non-chain affordable restaurants. What?

Anonymous 12:18

Error will be corrected.

Anonymous 3:03

Actually, while Josh only visits town for Five Guys, many people visit to visit the many restaurants on Main Street, Kid City, Harbor Park, Wesleyan cultural events. So the needs are not as divergent as you might guess.

Dan said...

I like to have restaurants chains come in too, but just not in that location. There's plenly of other locations the chains can build on.

Protect and build somewhere else and everyone will be happy.

Anonymous said...

I lived in Middletown for almost ten years and still work there. Why are you so focussed on saving this block of buildings when, there are homeless hungry on the street, bedbugs in the library, mentally ill going without treatment, drug dealers on most corners and schools that are in serious trouble??? These businesses would bring in a larger tax base to help solve some of these problems. I'm sorry that you feel your neighborhood feels threatned but there really are much bigger issues that need to be addressed!

Anonymous said...

This blog should be a place for all opinions even if folks disagree. Why attack those that don't agree?

Anonymous said...

I want a Starbucks in Middletown. Rt. 66 is the perfect place for one. I see this as someone throwing a fit because his neighborhood may end up in the 21st Century.

Pam said...

I agree with Dan. I'm all for bringing new businesses into town, particularly ones that our residents need to travel out of town to frequent (P.F.Chang's, Red Lobster, Christmas Tree Shop, Starbucks, etc), BUT there ARE empty establishments at present plazas and strip malls with more than adequate parking to place those.