Thursday, October 9, 2008

Planning and Zoning October 8

At Wednesday's Planning and Zoning meeting the commissioners held a public hearing on Chapter 9 of the proposed update to Middletown's Plan of Conservation and Development (POCD, full text here). The POCD outlines the goals of land use and related issues in Middletown, and provides the framework for land use planning in our city for the next decade. Chapter 9, entitled "Promoting Commercial and Industrial Growth", has as its fundamental premise that Industrial and Commercial development reduces the tax burden of city residents, because it brings tax revenue without bringing the high cost of city services (education) associated with housing development. The report highlights opportunities to enhance commerce in six areas of town: Downtown, Rte 66, Saybrook Road Medical corridor, Newfield Street, Rte 17/South Main, and South Cove. The last one is on the river just south of downtown, and could be realized only after the Rte 9 and Rte 17 interchange is modified, and the sewer treatment plant is relocated. The opportunities to expand usage of each of the eight different industrial zones is also discussed.

Several members of the public spoke to Chapter 9. Arline Rich, president of the Westfield Residents Assocation (WRA), praised the chapter. She pointed out a few clerical mistakes and out-of-date information, and handed a sheet of corrections to the City Planner. Beth Emery raised the issue of transportation, and urged that a chapter on Industrial and Commercial Growth stress the importance of pedestrian, bicycle, and public modes of transportation. She also asked that the document provide more specific data on the impact of industrial and commercial on city services and the city budget. Eleanor Kelsey lamented the absence of any small businesses that sell "real" things like bread, milk, and shoes. She suggested that Middletown encourage "little circles of communities", where residents could obtain the basics like bread, milk, dry cleaning, a doctor's visit, etc., in their local area, instead of being forced to travel across town or to a neighboring town. She also spoke forcefully against the push to concentrate traffic on a few main thoroughfares, and commented that P&Z should be preventing cul de sac developments, which prevent traffic from being evenly distributed on many roads. Commission members also commented on Chapter 9. Cynthia Jablonski asked about agricultural industry, and whether this should be in the POCD. The city planner, Bill Warner, responded that Middletown has some potential for specialty agricultural products such as local wines, goat farming, organic produce. Farmland issues are covered elsewhere in the POCD.

After the public hearing was closed, the commissioners decided to hold another public hearing on the proposed POCD as a whole. This would occur after each of the individual chapters are discussed, and give members of the public a chance to comment on changes that the first round of hearings have generated, and to comment on matters transcending individual chapters.

The next public hearing on the POCD is scheduled for the November 12th P&Z meeting. On that date, Chapter 8 (Addressing the Urban Dilemma, PDF HERE) will be discussed. This chapter focuses on transportation issues in Middletown.

In addition to POCD discussion, various land-use decisions were made:
3.1 Jackson Street subdivision: approved
3.2 Court Street Restaurant patio construction: tabled
3.3 Magnolia Avenue special exemption for 2-family dwelling: tabled
3.4 Higby Road 1-lot subdivision: approved
4.1 Landmark Square entrance change: unanimously approved
4.2 106-110 Court Street, outdoor patio and bar construction: tabled until site plan is presented.
5.2 Blasting regulations. State Statutes prohibit local towns from regulating blasting, so this application was removed by request of the petitioner (Westfield Residents Association).
5.3 Farm Markets. Zoning code text amendment. This was scheduled for a public hearing November 12th.
5.4 New church at Coe and Saybrook. Public Hearing scheduled for October 22.

During the last part of the meeting ("Discussion concerning topics not subject to a public hearing"), Commissioner Catherine Johnson brought up the resolution endorsing Cucia Park that was passed 5-1 at their September 24th meeting. She demanded to know who was responsible for the resolution, and why it was not on the agenda. Commissioner Matt Lesser accepted responsibility for bringing the resolution up, and said the text of the resolution resulted from a collaborative effort with Bill Warner. He explained that if the Commissioners wanted their opinion on the use of Cucia Park for the Army's military training facility to have any meaning, the timing of the site selection process did not allow time for putting the resolution on the agenda.

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