Catherine Johnson, downtown resident, architect and former member of the Planning and Zoning Commission reacts to the debate about how zoning changes ought to be made in Middletown. This commentary first appeared as a comment to a previous post.
According to an anonymous commenter on this site, "City
planners and zoning boards set the vision for the City. Restrictions
and zones are designated to protect ... neighborhoods, and to prevent
First, what a DREAM it would be if our P&Z and
planning department did, in fact, reinforce good urbanism and minimize
conventional suburban development (sprawl). What a dream it would be to
have residents recognize where we have a good thing going, and ask the
P&Z to make sure these areas are protected. Middletown would finally
have some self-awareness about its strengths and its competitive edge
over other places, and emerge as The City in Connecticut.
would argue that the best of what we have here in Middletown, right now,
is not protected. This proposed zoning change has exposed the glaring
omissions to our regulations. As the commenter states, "it does not fit."
if others share that opinion, as I do, we need to make it crystal clear
to the P&Z what does fit. And we need to make sure those
specifications are put into the zoning code to guide the next proposal
for development here.
creates the "vision" for a city?
I'm afraid it is the rare exception that
administrative planners and P&Z's have a vision. Statewide and
nationwide, P&Z commissioners are terrifically undereducated when
it comes to the vision part of the job. Outside of a 2-hr intro session
on how to read a site plan, and what state statutes are required to
review applications when they are first elected or appointed, no
education is offered to commissioners. Vision for a city comes from whoever steps
forward with a specific vision for development.
This step, creating a vision of what our city can and should be, was skipped in the latest re-do of the
city Plan of Development, and now we are seeing the price we'll have to
pay. The question is: will we, in the absence of our own vision, accept
this developer's vision of what Middletown should look like?
hope we use this opportunity to offer the P&Z commission a VISION
for downtown and South Main St neighborhoods, no matter what zone it's
labeled at present.
This Vision guides POLICY (written into the city
Plan of Development), will then be translated into REGULATIONS (a
proper form-based code) for those parcels.
This is the real protection
for those sites: an actual code that describes the size of parcels,
building footprints, building placement on lot, how to build on a corner
lot, parking location, parking space cap, lawn requirement, lighting,
drive-thru's, enclosure walls where commercial and residential uses abut, dampening
A/C condenser sound transmission, etc. A clear and concise description
of the physical form the neighborhood wants to see is the best way to
get desired development, and to preserve the integrity of what's already