Friday, February 14, 2014

Zoning Board Votes Against a Moratorium on Special Exceptions in MX Zones

The zoning board voted against approving a three-month moratorium on special exceptions in Middletown’s MX or mixed use zones at Wednesday night’s meeting.

A moratorium would have been established through a text amendment to the city’s Zoning Code. The proposed amendment failed by a vote of 5-2. Commissioners Steven Devoto and Elizabeth Emery voted in favor of the amendment.

Chairman Daniel Russo and Vice Chairwoman Molly Salafia voiced their opposition to a moratorium during the commission’s discussion of the amendment. Russo, who acknowledged that he was originally in favor of a moratorium, said that it would be more efficient for the commission to review special exceptions as part of its regular schedule, and that doing so would allow the public to have a better understanding of the commission’s decisions. Salafia said that a moratorium would have a negative effect on construction in the city, and that it would be superfluous because the commission can discuss special exemptions as part of its regular schedule.

Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce Chairman Jeff Pugliese also spoke out against the amendment on behalf of the Chamber, saying that a moratorium would stifle economic development throughout Middletown.

Before the final vote, newly approved commissioner Vincent Szynkowicz read a brief statement from city resident W. Lee Osborne about his opposition to the amendment. Osborne said that a moratorium was not necessary and could possibly invite legislation against development.

Devoto was the lone commissioner who spoke out in support of the amendment. He said that a moratorium would give confidence to developers and focus attention on each exemption.

The MX zone is located throughout the city, but is mostly concentrated in and around downtown. There are sections of mixed-use property along Washington and South Main Streets, Broad Street and North Main Street. Outside of downtown, MX zones can be found along Newfield Street, near Connecticut Valley Hospital and off Saybrook Road.


Ed McKeon said...

Let's see, the Chairman, elected after some chicanery, suggests that a committee consider a study of a moratorium, says he supports the concept. Then he tries to remove the vote from the agenda, which is opposed by Devoto. When the vote is taken, the chair votes against it.

And we are supposed to accept the idea that things are going to be different on the P&Z?

I'm glad Devoto is there, but I fear he will be regularly frustrated.

Anonymous said...

Devoto's explanation of a moratorium' s impact made no sense.

Ed McKeon said...

Anonymous 2:34

What? An a one-sentence accusation does?

My name is Ed, yadda yadda...

Bill Wilson said...

This would have done nothing but tell businesses Middletown is closed for business. With a stagnant grand list this would not have helped.

James Streeto said...

Hi Ed and Bill--

Bill--glad to see you up and back on the keyboard again. :)

Ed--not sure what the reference is in the first line. Both the chairman and commissioner Devoto are always presentable; the ponytail is stylish, and the chairman has some lovely ties. But "chic"? Certainly, they don't approach the sartorial splendor of the Council--but I digress.

Your main point appears to be an issue with the fact that the chairman changed his mind. Really Ed? What are all those people doing in the chamber every council meeting--trying to CHANGE OUR MINDS. You KNOW this--you've spoken to us, to try and do that.

And sometimes it works. Those picts you guys take of the democrats in the glass box--about 1/2 the time, its because someone CHANGED HIS MIND. (funny, you never see the republicans all gathered together in that box. But again, I digress….)

And that's healthy! The council, and the commission, SHOULD be persuadable by logic, or additional facts they hadn't considered. Would you really want it any other way? Heaven preserve me from an elected official who can't be persuaded to change his mind!

You know, if memory serves, in November of 2000, we elected a feller President who didn't change his mind for 8 years--no matter what, he resolutely stuck to his original decision.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but I seem to remember it didn't work out real well……

Jim Streeto

Ed McKeon said...


Nothing to do with changing of minds.

It's called bait and switch.

If you get the whole story, the chairman changed his mind before he heard any testimony. Something he seems prone to do.

BTW, I don't think I've ever gotten anyone on the Council to change his/her mind.

But thanks for being loyal to the Dems. I don't go for the caucus baloney. If someone changes his/her mind, let the public hear the debate.

James Streeto said...

Hi Ed--

No--bait and switch references the substitution of a much less interesting alternative once a commitment has been made. If the chairman had changed his mind and announced he'd only support a two month moratorium, that'd constitute bait and switch. What appears to have happened is a shift from supporting a proposal to opposing it--what is sometimes derogatorily called "flip-flopping." And not just by the chair but by most of the commission.

But that's sort of my point. One of the best quotes I can remember from the Kerry campaign (in which "flip-flop" was a republican mantra) was his remark that "its possible to be resolute and wrong." Subsequent events proved Kerry was quite right on that point.

I've honestly no idea what prompted the shift by the commissioners. But I really think criticizing someone for changing his mind or her mind is both unwarranted and somewhat dangerous; and I haven't heard anything yet that makes me think anything nefarious was going on.

True story: I remember several years ago being button holed by our then majority leader on a major city project. I protested it was a bad idea. HE respectfully and factually spoke to me for about 30 minutes in the hallway in the basement of the municipal building. He had lots of facts and solid arguments. I came to the conclusion I should defer to his judgment--and voted for the project.

Wadsworth Mansion. Its been a success story.

Ed--that's an example of "caucus baloney." You and I have had this conversation before--not all of what is derisively labeled "politics" is bad. I would think the recent doings in Congress should make this clear to anyone--the problem in congress right now is not people playing politics but people NOT playing politics. We're finally starting to see some forward motion because the leadership is ignoring the non-politicians in their ranks.

For anyone who thinks this is new: sit down and READ the constitution (I mean the parts other than the first and second amendments). Then read the original text and ask yourself--who came up with the 3/5s clause? Do yah think maybe its one of those "politicians"?


Anonymous said...

Well said Jim

Anonymous said...

I think Councilman Streeto succinctly summarizes the problem, "I've honestly no idea what prompted the shift by the commissioners. "

Therefore he, and most everybody else, is left to imagine the who and what that prompted the shift from proposing a moratorium and scheduling it for a public hearing, to calling for its removal from the agenda only 3 weeks later.

This imagination, for a significant portion of the public, has the potential to erode trust.

Middletown Eye (Ed McKeon) said...


Your explanation might make sense if it were the whole story, which it is not.

For the record, I am against the casual use of caucus. What is so important that cannot be said in public? Oh yeah, stuff the caucus does not want the public to hear.

"Politics" has earned its stripes as a pejorative. I think it was you who lectured me about how we would not get anything done on the BOE, because I was opposed to the use of politics.

What I'm not opposed to is honesty, integrity and cooperation. I guess that's a political philosophy of a sorts.

Changing one's mind is not the same as having someone change it for you.

Anonymous said...

Ed keeps the BOE " budget" vague for the same reason he dislikes the caucus - he doesn't want the public to know.

He's chair of the Budget Committee but go on the districts web site and you'll find paltry little regarding the budget.

Where are last years expenses by category so one can evaluate this year's request?

Where is the narrative regarding what each category covers and the reasons behind large increases and decreases?

Where are the staffing levels by job classification?

Where is the spending level by school, including grants so you can see how many resources each school receives (or doesn't receive)?

Ed has it in his power to provide the public with this information yet chooses no to. Why? Because he doesn't want us to know.

Ironically he ran for the BOE on a platform of transparency which is sorely missing. Clearly, he has changed his mind or someone has changed it for him. Although that debate would be interesting, the end result is what needs to change.

Middletown Eye (Ed McKeon) said...

Anon 2:51

Of course it's easy to be anonymous and spew a pack of lies. All the budget information is available to the public. And, if you want to hear about it in a public setting, come to a budget committee meeting where it is regularly discussed.

Mine name is Ed, what's yours?


James Streeto said...

Hi Ed--

Don't mean to keep this thread going unless people find it interesting--but since we're still drawing comments I'd suggest they are.

Ed--that anger that comes across so clearly in your last post is directed at the poster because he questions your integrity (as budget chair). Put that anger in a box and take a long look at it--isn't that what you're doing to the chair here? Questioning his integrity?

I think my essential point is that the worst and most frustrating feature of Middletown politics is the seamless way we slide from "I disagree" to "you're wrong" to "you're stupid, evil corrupt and nasty." How about if we start over this year, from the premise that a person's motivations are good unless we can prove otherwise?

Don't tell me somebody's just plain evil. I deal with evil people every day. I know what they look like, and it ain't like Middletown politicians.

And in the event somebody comes across a SERIOUS ethical or legal issue, file an Ethics complaint and a complaint with the political crimes unit of the Division of Criminal Justice and leave it at that. How about we all try to elevate the level of discourse?

Ed and anonymous 10:16 pm: you're both right, I don't know the reason for the switch (its not entirely clear from the article, but neither is the reason for Stephen's adherence).

But as a general rule, when I see a 5-2 vote, and the 5 includes all leadership in a commission, all minority party members, members of both parties, and all but 1 of the commission members not serving their first term, I tend to think the possibility of political shenanigans is minimal. Especially in Middletown, where it seems SOMEBODY goes hysterical and calls the cops on rumors every few months.

Correct me if I'm wrong: can't the commission still deny a special exception--its just they're not refusing to hear them at the moment? Where's the harm here? I'm reminded of the line from 1776 given to Stephen Hopkins: "Well, in all my years I ain't never heard, seen nor smelled an issue that was so dangerous it couldn't be talked about. Hell yeah! I'm for debating anything."

Jim Streeto