Submitted by Catherine Johnson. Johnson is an Architect and a Town Planner who served as P&Z Commissioner from 2007 to 2011.
I noticed only today on a little flyer I received that there are two people running for Planning & Zoning Commission Alternates who do not have any signs around town, so I am not certain people know they are running: Elizabeth Emery (Dem) and David Greaves (Rep).
I would like to encourage voters vote for both of them. Yes they are running for seats in different parties, but there are seats on both sides available. I think they would be the best candidates of those offered. I believe they will make good decisions for Middletown.
I would also like to put in a good word for Molly Salafia, running for a P&Z seat as a Regular Member.
David serves on the Design Review Board and was one of the two people who took a close look at the proposal for an apartment building at 138 College, currently under construction on Broad and College Street downtown, next to the large parking garage. The Design Review Board was given the enormous challenge of reviewing this proposal, knowing the chair of the Design Review Board, Jeff Bianco, had designed the building himself. Dave was not put off, despite having just been appointed to the board only a few days beforehand.
In the first review, Molly Salafia, also a candidate for P&Z, pointed out that the developers proposed to put the building 6 feet lower than the sidewalk on Broad Street. She said this would not make for a very welcoming building. Dave Greaves followed up on her excellent review in the next session, when they raised the building up to Broad Street, but made the College Street side complicated. Dave pointed out that the design would have a hill between the building and the city sidewalk (known as a berm, like on a golf course), saying buildings downtown normally open directly onto the sidewalk. But for some reason, the designer decided to locate the building far back from the street and put this hill in the way.
Dave also noticed another oddity: the landscape architect was proposing a suburban office park planting scheme: he showed wispy trees planted in front of the building, instead of street trees planted between sidewalk and street. Dave advocated for the developer and his designers to continue the city-wide tradition of putting street trees next to the street.
I am sad to report that despite these points being supported by several members of the public, including property owners on the street, the developer and designers have changed nothing since those reviews in March. Regrettably, the building will be back from the street, the first floor activity hidden by landscaping. But both Salafia and Greaves deserve a big hand for making those points, especially when other board members and commissioners were too meek to speak up, including city staff. Although kudos to Bob Blanchard for saying the trees selected were brittle and not hardy enough to be street trees.
I also want to encourage voting for Beth Emery. Beth is an honest, devoted, passionate citizen who has a degree in sports education and an avocation in bicycle education. She leads training sessions for teaching bicyclists Road Safety. Even well-seasoned bikers like a teacher friend of mine who bikes to work daily and runs the bike club at the high school he teaches was one of these students. The revolution in biking in the US will never be of the caliber of what the Scandinavian cities have until we have Driver and Biker Education, so we all start to share the road - these classes Beth teaches emulates the European training children and drivers receive.
Beth also led the effort to adopt a city ordinance supporting what's called "Complete Streets," a reform in road design that aims to be more equitable, and design the street and sidewalk for ALL users, not just those in vehicles. Those regulations were adopted a few years ago, and are being implemented on new road projects in the city.
And last but not least, Molly Salafia has been doing an exceptional job as a commissioner in the past 4 years. She is trained as an architect and has perhaps a higher skill set than most of the other members: she can read drawings, understand regulations, site plans, and the intent of the city's Plan of Development - something not all of the current commissioners have read. She also serves a dual role on the Design Review Board. Because she brings professional skills to the job here, she can sniff out certain aspects of a project that seem to be BS when other commissioners are still trying to figure out what they are looking at. She's the one who caught the really, really bad earlier design of 138 College St, when they were going to build it 6 feet below Broad Street! She is the one who, when it came to P&Z, asked for shadow studies in order to understand how this 6-story building would potentially affect the 2-story houses across the street. She is the one who pointed out the zoning for the site encouraging commercial uses on the ground floor of downtown buildings when the developer was attempting to minimize the commercial areas.
Her review on both boards was simply the very, very best commissioner review I have witnessed in the past 4 years, and perhaps some of all time in the city. I wish we had 5 Molly Salafias to serve on the Commission. We would have strong protection for our existing zoning ordinances, and a higher level of quality of development. Developers will do that, but not in cities that don't ask them to.
I hope you will introduce yourselves to these candidates Tuesday and find out more about them yourselves. I know you are more familiar with a few other in the commission, but the 2 alternates DO NOT have signs, and therefore, I thought I'd point them out to you so you don't miss out on the chance to cast your vote for them.
Catherine Johnson, Architect & Town Planner
City of Middletown, P&Z Commissioner 2007-2011