Opinion: Deborah Kleckowski
Disclosure: Member of the Middletown Common Council/Former Planning and Zoning Commissioner
Development vs. Neighborhoods
I was asked to submit an opinion piece on the highly charged debate of development on High Street to Washington Street. This is my opinion and is not reflective of any other member of the Republican Party specifically or the Common Council in general.
There has been much discussion, even heated debate, over the proposed text change from residential zone to mixed-use commercial. Simply, residents of the neighborhood do not want the proposed text change to allow for commercial development. A myriad of reasons have been stated from aesthetics, to traffic and even a comparison of taxes to the city of homes versus businesses. Depending upon which side of the agruement you support each side has compelling components of their point of view.
The public should be heard on this matter, as with all matters that affect the city. Both sides need to communicate their concerns. Then it is up to the Planning and Zoning Commissioners to evaluate the information brought forward and to make a decision. From first-hand experience I can tell you it is never easy to vote on highly charged matters. However, I have no doubt that the Commissioners will have thoughtful deliberation and vote in accordance with the Constitution and the rules and regulations set forth by the Plan of Conservation and Development, state statues and local ordinances.
In my opinion, I suggest that the code remain virtually the same but tweaked. No change in the text will allow for projects to come forward and be approved by “Special Exception”. “Special Exceptions” do have a dilemma, if the project meets the zoning criteria it is difficult to deny a “Special Exception”. Therefore, I suspect, and agree, that a compromise that addresses the concerns of the neighborhood and the business community will be the final course of action. A compromise to include parameters such as two-stories, 100 ft. setback, parking in the rear etc. can be applied to the specific area in question (High Street to Washington Street). I do firmly believe that the City should linked by sidewalks allowing easy walking access from downtown to Goodwill (as well as downtown to Stop and Shop). In addition the Planning and Zoning Commission there is the Design Review Commission which can ensure that any development be appropriate to the architecture and “culture” of the neighborhood. Any project will have to undergo “checks and balances” from elected officials, City staff, volunteer commission and of course, the public.
The Planning and Zoning Commission has a difficult decision to make. Balancing business and development with the desires of a community or segment of a community is not an easy task. Remember, elected officials do want what is best for the community; they too live here. Decisions often entail compromise. The community should be respectful of the decision of the Planning and Zoning Commission. No projects have been brought forward; this vote is for a text change.
The next meeting is March 13, 2013 at 7pm in the Council Chambers. I believe public comment has concluded and the deliberation of this agenda item will occur. I encourage members of the community to attend the meeting or watch the meeting on Channel 15 (cable).