Thursday, February 28, 2013

Are You Ready For "Ready Player One"?

One Book One Middletown Ready Player One Gaming Kick-off

Friday March 1 - 3PM-6PM  - Hubbard Room

Come play with us on the XBox 360 Kinect to celebrate the One Book One Middletown novel "Ready Player One" by Ernest Cline on Friday, March 1st from 3PM-6PM in the Hubbard Room at Russell Library, 123 Broad Street, Middletown.  We will be trying to achieve our own high scores on a variety of nostalgic 80s video games while enjoying pizza and other 80s sound bytes.  No registration is required. Copies of Ready Player One are available for check-out in the first floor lobby.

CCP's Did You Know? Fact #7

The "Did You Know?" Campaign highlights partnerships, connections, and collaborations between Wesleyan and the greater Middletown community. Every Tuesday and Thursday we will post a fact and send it out to WesLive, Middletown Eye, Facebook, Twitter, and beyond.

Reminder: Our March First Friday community talk is tomorrow, 3/1, at 4:30PM in Allbritton 304 on the Wesleyan Campus. Come listen and discuss environmental problem-solving in Middletown.

Decision On Commercializing Residential Neighborhoods Postponed

Nearly 150 people packed the Council Chambers last night for the Planning and Zoning Commission public hearing on a proposal to change the zoning code text to approve high density commercial development on Washington Street, South Main Street, and Newfield Street. The large number of public comments pushed the meeting nearly to midnight, and the Commission tabled their discussion and vote until the next meeting, on March 13.

40 people spoke against the change; most identified themselves as residents of the neighborhoods near either Washington or South Main.

Far fewer spoke in favor of the proposed zoning change, they included only Bob Landino, the developer who proposed the change, Mayor Dan Drew, former Mayor Seb Giuliano, Jeff Pugliese for the Chamber of Commerce, Vice President John Meerts speaking for Wesleyan, and two others  selling land on Washington Street to Landino's Centerplan Development company.

"It's opening the door for a different type of use for your consideration."
Ralph Wilson is representing the developer. He opened the public hearing by describing what is currently allowed in MX zones, highlighting neighborhood stores and banks with drive through windows. He then said that the proposal to allow retail and drive-through restaurants would not be a big change. Wilson emphasized that the proposal was consistent with the Plan of Conservation and Development, which is the document that provides guidelines for Commission decisions, "This text has been purposefully drafted [for the POCD]."

Wilson said that the proposal would only affect land on State Highways, "We're not in a neighborhood." He also told the Commission that the text change would ensure that any developments would be good, "This is not going to be a project with no value."

The text change would not grant automatic approval for high-density commercial development, it would allow developers to apply for a special exception from the Commission. Landino said that the Commission would be able to determine what was approved, "It gives you what you need.... You are in control."

Wilson called on two paid consultants to speak to the Commission about the proposed text changes. Philip Michalowski, a certified planner, like Wilson, emphasized the State highway aspect of the text change, "The critical element to keep in mind that it only applies to properties fronting on state highways." John Nitz, a real estate appraiser, said that the text change would increase the value of land because it could now be sold as retail land. Nitz said that the commercial development of some MX properties would not have any impact on the value of neighboring residential properties.

Commissioner Beth Emery asked Nitz to substantiate this statement, but Nitz could not provide any data to support it, he simply said, "I feel there will be no affect on residential."

"With proper zoning, it can be a great city forever and forever."
A large and diverse group of residents then spoke against the proposed text change. Marian Katz requested, "Please don't allow a change that will allow a developer to destroy [a neighborhood]." Ellen Ornato, a Middletown resident who was formerly the assistant planning director for Meriden, said she admired the proposed change, but that it was being applied to the wrong neighborhoods, "The logic makes sense, the map does not." Jane McMillan said that the proposed change would hurt downtown and the residential neighborhoods around Washington Street and South Main, "this ... would be a self-inflicted wound."

Many residents expressed alarm at the traffic consequences to Washington and South Main if high-traffic commerce were to be allowed. Melissa Schilke did not want Wesleyan students walking across Washington Street to a new fast-food restaurant, "They will be walking to a fatal attraction." Brian Stewart spoke of how walking in the downtown area made for a livable neighborhood and kept him fit. He was concerned about the danger of increasing traffic on Washington Street, "It's not much of a victory if I stay fit and then get smashed by a car."

The Wesleyan Student Assembly passed a resolution in early February, in opposition to the proposed text change. Andrew Trexler read the resolution, which noted the "significant and vocal opposition" by the Wesleyan faculty, residents of areas neighboring campus, and the student body. The WSA resolution also expressed concern over the potential for "damage to Middletown's unique urban aesthetic."

"I would like to express my support."
City Planner Bill Warner read a letter from Dan Drew in support of the text change application, "The amendment allows the applicant and other developers to design projects in the MX zone exclusively along state highways that could be very beneficial to our city." Drew expressed his faith in the Commission, "I have full confidence in your ability..."

Former Mayor Seb Giuliano also supported the application, suggesting that since the state had made the highways into "4-lane commercial throughways" it was necessary to change the zone to allow property owners to develop their land for commercial use. Two such property owners, who have agreed to sell their property on Washington Street to Landino, expressed their strong support for Landino's proposed text change. Lee Osborn painted stark consequences of denying the application, "A no vote will ... signal a period of reduced growth." John Desena praised Landino and expressed impatience for the start of the developer's project on Washington Street, "Approve this so that we can move forward as quick as we can."

Wesleyan Vice President John Meerts spoke after Giuliano, in the portion of the public hearing reserved for those in support of the developer's text change application. However, the Wesleyan statement did not make its position clear. Meerts said that Wesleyan "supports the preservation of the neighborhood's architectural identity, urban design, and history." He went on to say, "new development is important to the vibrancy and economic vitality of cities."

A tale of two cities, commentary
The Commission voted to close the public hearing, but decided to put off any discussion and a vote until their meeting on March 13th. When it deliberates the impact of the proposed change, it will be considering public comments that seemed to describe two different worlds.

The developer and his supporters spoke of "State Highways", in a way that limited their connection to residential neighborhoods. Drew and Giuliano both echoed this language, and Wesleyan emphasized the physical, but somewhat abstract aspects of the neighborhood over the people and homes, "Any proposed development should be consistent with the scale, massing, and architectural sensibility of the neighborhood."

In contrast, those in opposition emphasized the community of people who live, and the specific homes they live in. Bill Carbone, who lives on Pearl near Washington Street, said, "...I absolutely love this community. My wife and I have chosen to raise our kids here..." Lucy McMillan said, "...there are hundreds of us that can't imagine living anywhere else."
Disclosures: I am employed by Wesleyan, many of the people who spoke against the proposed change are friends, and I share most of their concerns about this proposal before Planning and Zoning. Before the public hearing on this proposal, I urged the Commission to take a more pro-active role in writing the city's zoning code text.

P&Z Commission tables zoning change decision

Details later

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Short Film & Discussion at CFPA HQ

Nothing exciting to do this Friday night?
Consider yourself invited to an evening of film & conversation at the Connecticut Forest & Park Association. 
Bring or meet a friend.
We are featuring a short film about why we have National Forests. It was a fight then and still is today! Add your voice to a warm discussion about protecting and stewarding forests and parks in Connecticut and America. 
Light refreshments will be served after the film.
Engage and Enjoy!
 Pinchot - Sam 
Cinema CFPA
Channeling Pinchot- A Film and Speaker Event

You will enjoy a fun and informative event where the roots of forestry in America will be explored. It is stunning how issues that boiled over in the early 20th century are still brewing in the early 21st century! 

Examine your own thoughts about the environment and what is important to you and your family. 
On March 1st we will view the first episode of the Forest Service Centennial film, The Greatest Good, which looks at the conservation movement and the growth of forests and forestry in the early 20th century. The film runs less than an hour. Afterwards, enjoy refreshments and a discussion of the personalities and the issues of the era. 

We don't require an RSVP, but it will be greatly appreciated so we have enough food and refreshments for everyone!
Please contact us today at or 860-346-2372.

Join us!
Date:  March 1, 2013
Time:  6:00 - 8:30 PM

Location:CFPA 16 Meriden Rd., Rockfall, CT

Lyme and Tick-Borne Disease Public Hearing

This is a Connecticut Legislative Public Hearing designed to gather information regarding the general public's ideas, concerns, and beliefs about Lyme and Tick-Borne Diseases in the State of Connecticut so that we can best design legislation to meet the needs of our citizens.

Friday March 8th 2013 
Wesleyan University Middletown CT
Fayerweather Building – Beckham Hall
Parking Across Street – #70 Wyllys Ave Lot E
Please arrive 9:30 am

Lyme disease reported in 50 US states and throughout the world
CT has the highest rate of incidence of Lyme Infections (CDC, May 2011)
Children age 5-14 are the fastest growing demographic (25%)
Untreated Lyme and Tick-Borne Disease can have Life-Long Debilitating Effects
Current Testing Standards are dated and NOT diagnostic (miss 44/100 patients) 
Black-legged ticks are infected from hosting on white-footed mice
Ticks can be as small as a poppy seed – many are never aware they have been bitten
Commonly “known” symptoms ARE NOT “common”
Lyme and Tick-Borne Infection Symptoms are often confused with Other Diseases
State Funding for Community Lyme Education is minimal in CT
If treated promptly – lyme and tick-borne diseases CAN be treated, however:
  • It MUST be recognized QUICKLY by residents
  • It MUST be recognized QUICKLY by physicians
  • It MUST be “Clinically” Diagnosed and Treated based on Patient Symptoms

“Lyme” was “coined” in CT in 1975... Why do many residents STILL struggle to:
Find Quality Educational Material?
Find a Quality Lyme Literate Doctors in CT? 
Avoid the Risks of Infection?

We can no longer deny the disease and the people who are AT RISK...
YOU and Your Loved Ones!

If you wish to submit public testimony for this hearing: (tell your story, share your concerns) you can do so online at the CT General Assembly Website - Bill No S0368 (click here)

Public Testimony On-line submission shall be available on Friday, March 1 (if it does not work - check back on Monday March 4)

Please feel free to contact Marie Benedetto for more

The earliest singer-songwriters: Medieval music brought into the modern era (Feb. 28)

The Orlando Consort
On Thursday, February 28 at 7pm, the Music Department has the honor of hosting one of the most established early music performing groups, the Orlando Consort, who are celebrating their 25th anniversary. CFA Arts Administration Intern Monica M. Tinyo ’13 spoke with Associate Professor of Music and Chair of the Music Department Jane Alden about the Orlando Consort and pre-modern (western European Medieval) music in this entry from the Center for the Arts blog.

Will Zone Changes Weaken Main Street?

Middletown's Main Street is the envy of many towns all across Connecticut.

Historically, the citizens of Middletown have been weary of big box stores and corporate chain retail.  Favoring locally owned business.

Middletown is protective of its main street.  Supporting small business and allowing them to grow or fail.  Bob's Stores started on Main Street, part of where La Bocca is now, and has grown to have locations in six states.

Former Planning Commission Chairman Decries MX Zone Change

In the decades of the 60's and 70's the City worked diligently to save and protect the approach to Middletown's downtown. It was also encouraged to not compete with Main Street for its economic livelihood.

Now the planners and the Chamber have decided that the offer of a particular and friendly developer has precedence over the viability of the Main thoroughfare. This is a sad and unfortunate change in direction.

This was a city that prided itself on its suburban beauty with an urban main street. Look to some of the successful small towns, ones that also have colleges; for instance North Hampton, MA and Saratoga Springs, NY and you will find vibrant main streets w/o encroaching on the side streets and main entrances. And they do not impose on neighboring college/university sites.

This is a bad idea that has merit only if the only concern is temporary tax benefits. These do not last forever, but mutilation of an attractive approach to the downtown will.

Don't make that mistake.

I am sorry that I no longer live in Middletown, where I chaired the Planning Commission for nearly a decade, because I would be there to object. Most vociferously.

Biff Shaw

This commentary was featured in the Middletown Patch in response to a regular Chamber of Commerce column, authored by Larry McHugh, endorsing the MX Zone change.

Well, Who Ought To Be Writing Zoning Code?

Ed McKeon is a former Middletown Eye editor, and resident of Pearl Street.  He is challenging the expansion of the MX Zone, and recommended that former residences in the ID Zone be regulated as a residential zone with adaptive reuse allowed.  This is an opinon piece.

It was a surprise to me.  When I asked a staffer at the town's planning office about who could apply for a zoning change, he told me, "Anybody who pays the $160."

Sure enough, I looked through the regulations, and it was true.  However, when I handed in my application, it was rejected.  I was told I was not a landowner in the ID zone in which I was requesting the change.  When I protested that the regulations don't make the distinction about owning land in a zone, the staffer handed me a sheaf of "legal precedent" and suggested I find an ID landowner to co-sign the application.  I did, and now I can play the role of "zone-maker."

Still, I'm not completely comfortable in that role.

Sure, I submitted the application because I wanted to give neighbors some protection from developers who want to change their residential zone into a commercial zone.  And, in the end, the Planning & Zoning Commission would have to pass judgment on my suggested changes.

But does it make sense that any resident with a notion to change code, should be able to?

Worse still, should any developer, who's looking for an advantage for their particular development be able to write zoning language?

I think the answer is "no" in both cases.

The regulation ought to be changed.  I can't think of anything more counterproductive to good town planning than to have developers playing the role of zone-maker.  And if one developer is allowed to rewrite code, imagine the precedent that's being set.  Imagine the kind of zoning code we'd have.

I  think the regulation needs to be changed.  What's more, I think our entire zoning code needs reformation.

The often-contradictory Plan of Development is a toothless document without meaningful zoning code, and the town planner has admitted so himself.

Leslie Creane, Hamden Town Planner
Four years ago, Hamden's town planner Leslie Creane was received enthusiastically when she made a presentation to the P&Z about her town's transformation from use-based zoning to form-based zoning, and the remarkably adaptable SmartCode.

She made a few things clear.  New code should not be written without lots of public input.  They call this process "charette" and its a process designed specifically to get many residents involved in the process of defining what their town is, and what it will be.

She also noted that the zoning must be "coherent."   Because it's a zone based on the form of buildings, instead of the function, one neighborhood must relate to the one next to it, and so on.  You don't write this code in bits and pieces.  You create form-based code for the entire city, so that neighborhoods are integrated (and by the way,  pedestrian-friendly).

So, to cut and paste quasi-form-based principles into a proposed zone change, for a slice of a single, small zone in a city, goes against the entire idea of form-based zoning.

Yet, that's what will be proposed at tonight's Planning and Zoning Commission, as the lawyer endorsing an MX Zone change will surely claim that because it's "form-based" it's better.  He's likely to get a ringing endorsement from the town's planning department.

The principle of form-based zoning is a good one.  But piecemeal form-based zoning, particularly zoning designed by a developer to meet his needs, is not an auspicious beginning.

For this reason, I  urge the Planning and Zoning Commission to vote "no" on the MX Zone change.

The Middletown Planning and Zoning Commission meets Wednesday, February 27, 7 PM, in City Hall's Council Chambers to deliberate two significant zoning proposals which could affect Middletown neighborhoods.

Remington Rand Bldg. Filling Up, May Expand

"We just want to brew some beer."

That's the message from Shane Lentini and Andrew Daigle, the men behind Stubborn Beauty Brewing Company.  And if the Common Council approves their lease, they'll be the latest tenants in the city-owned Remington Rand Building at 180 Johnson Street.

"We've been looking [for brewery space] for a year" says Lentini.  "We needed something affordable."  Both men have day jobs, but brewing is their passion, so they started Stubborn Beauty.  "This is a part-time venture on top of full-time work."

That made them a good fit for Remington Rand, which has become an incubator for local homegrown businesses.

A Rich History

The 1000 foot long, red brick building has a rich and colorful history.  Originally built in 1896 as a bicycle factory, the building also produced "horseless carriages".  In 1909 the company that eventually became "Remington Rand" converted it to typewriter manufacturing. The facility was one of Middletown's largest employers, enduring a violent labor strike in the 1930's.  But in the 1970's Remington Rand closed down production at the site.  Various companies attempted to use the building but nothing took hold, and 13 years ago the city took the building in tax foreclosure proceedings.

Isolated at the end of Johnson Street in the North End, contaminated with lead and asbestos, the property had become a haven for crime ranging from prostitution to illegal pit bull breeding.  "We pulled over 70 junked cars out of there" said city planner Bill Warner.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Buttonwood Tree Events - great music & so much more

This weekend at the Buttonwood Tree...

On Wednesday: KARAOKE with Deni! Starting at 7 pm, come sing your heart out! All are welcome.

On Friday: an indie rock triple bill! HIGHER ANIMALS with ROBERT DON and GRAND COUSIN, starting at 8 pm. Tickets are $10, $5 with student ID. Higher Animals play original indie-pop-waltz music written and developed by all four band members; their love of music and natural chemistry makes this captivating band a must-see performance. Robert Don and Grand Cousin are both Wesleyan indie rock bands, playing at the Buttonwood for the first time!

Our Saturday mornings are packed, as always, with events to strengthen your body and nourish your soul. Qigong starts at 7:30, followed by Community Yoga at 8:45, both free events. The "Aligned with Source" workshop led by Spiritual & Holisitic Healer Annaita Gandhy starts at 10:30; the theme this week is 'Who or What Do You Serve?'. There is a $5 suggested donation, but no one is turned away from Buttonwood events for lack of funds.

Then, on Saturday night, two great folk acts: GREG KLYMA and CON & CAROLE at 8 pm. Greg Klyma is a storyteller, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist who weaves his skills together into impeccably crafted sets. He is a young artist with old-school populist ideals, and he strives to keep the timeless American folk tradition alive. Con & Carole are coming to bring original music, rare chemistry and humor. Expect to hear songs that range from whimsical to self-revelatory; in folk, blues, and folk-rock veins. Be inspired by this musical tour of the human condition.

And don't miss the Great Make Believe Improv Show on Sunday at 6 pm. Watch The Great Make Believe Society perform different kinds of improv comedy! See the styles of improv comedy popular in Chicago, Los Angeles, Boston, and New York! Watch improvised scenes created right before your eyes, based on your suggestions!

For tickets to any of our amazing events, visit our website or call us at (860) 347-4957.

The Buttonwood Tree Performing Arts & Cultural Center
605 Main Street
Middletown, CT 06459

CCP Did You Know? Fact #6.

The "Did You Know?" Campaign highlights partnerships, connections, and collaborations between Wesleyan and the greater Middletown community. Every Tuesday and Thursday we will post a fact and send it out to WesLive, Middletown Eye, Facebook, Twitter, and beyond.

Today's fact concerns March's First Friday talk on environmental awareness in Middletown. All are welcome to attend and refreshments will be served.

Think Outside the Bun

Ed McKeon is a former Middletown Eye editor, and resident of Pearl Street.  He is challenging the expansion of the MX Zone, and recommended that former residences in the ID Zone be regulated as a residential zone with adaptive reuse allowed.  This is an opinon piece.

Middletown's office of Planning, Conservation and Development is working overtime in their support of the upcoming P&Z hearing on a change in the MX code.  They have issued three sets of "staff comments" in support of the change.  You can find those comments here.

For the record, I oppose the change.  And I disagree with the comments.

In Staff Comments 1, the planner's office suggests that the change "simply 'opens the door' to allow property owners in the MX zone to apply to the commission."  It's kind of like saying, Pandora opened the door of the box, filled with the evils of the world, simply to allow what was inside, out.  I believe the outcomes will be similar.

In the same set of comments, the planner's office also concludes that, "mixed use (sic) development of the type envisioned is definitely desirable and the way of the future."  A visionary statement indeed, if you don't consider the idea that two-story buildings with storefronts have been around for centuries, and as such, are not the wave of the future, but a reinforcement of past best practices.

In Staff Comments 3, the planner's office cherry-picks the plan of development to bolster support for the MX change.  As a colleague notes, "although they (the planning staff) cite two guiding principles under "Economic Development" - 1) Increase commercial tax base and 2) Reinforce downtown as economic/cultural center, they fail to include the third principle, "Offer incentives for recycling brownfields and rehabbing historic structures."

I would argue, in addition, that the MX change does the opposite of reinforcing "downtown as an economic/cultural center" by diverting commercial attention to the outskirts.

But it's Staff Comments 2, that's most surprising.  It appears the planner's office has had a late conversion to adaptive reuse.  They offer a fill-in-the-blank quiz, and jpegs of several locations where chain restaurants have been forced to adhere to strict zoning regulations to fit into those locations.

The Planning Staff's selected view.
There are a few problems with this approach.  The first is that the photos only tell half the story.  Here's the photo as it appears in the Staff Comments.  This is Burger King ("yes, and with a drive-thru") in Columbus, GA.  Ignoring the lollipop BK sign, it's a handsome building from ground level.

The Google view of Columbus.

A not-so-romantic streetscape in Columbus.

But from another perspective (Google's), you can see just what a mess it is.  I would guess that the "pedestrian-friendly" walkways are used far less frequently than the fifty-car parking lot, or the drive-thru, both of which empty onto Lockwood Avenue.  That side street surely sees more vehicular traffic than it ever has.

Here's the McDonald's in Freeport, ME, with some of the same issues.

Freeport Maine parking lots from above.

Another problem with this set of Staff Comments is that the photos deal with adaptive reuse of older buildings, while Centerplan, who is behind the MX zone change, wants to knock old buildings down, and throw new ones up.

And none of these buildings illustrated fit the minimum size requirements of the proposed change - 15,000 square feet, and 300 feet of frontage.

Finally, that fill-in-the-blank quiz I mentioned earlier.  I'm not so sure the Planning department would get a passing grade.  Less than a year ago, a new fast food restaurant was built on Washington Street.

If we were to fill in the blanks the sentence would have to read.  "Make Middletown look like Taco Bell, Or Make Taco Bell look like Middletown."  I suggest e settled for the former.

The new Taco Bell on Washington St. in Middletown.
Unfortunately, when that fast-food restaurant came to Middletown, town the city did not adhere to 'form-based" guidelines which would have begun to bring positive change to the streetscape on the commercial strip on Rte. 66.  It seems, we even didn't take the time, as they say at Taco Bell to "Think Outside the Bun."

The Middletown Planning and Zoning Commission meets Wednesday, February 27, 7 PM, in City Hall's Council Chambers to deliberate two significant zoning proposals which could affect Middletown neighborhoods.

If You Love Sausage, Never Watch It Being Made. Popcorn by The Colonel #33

Cub reporter for The Eye -- not a diversity

An insignificant Middletown Eye staffer, actually a known scoundrel, has passed along the following piece for publication under The Colonel's august aegis, but The Colonel decided to publish it in February.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Jewish Genealogical Society of CT Program, March 17, 1:30 pm, Godfrey Library

SUNDAY, MARCH 17, 2013, 1:30 pm
134 Newfield Street

The Jewish Genealogical Society of Connecticut presents West Hartford resident Ivan Backer as he details the four separate escapes of his father, mother, older brother, and himself from Czechoslovakia in 1939.  Each story typifies how families survived those turbulent times.  Ivan will read his mother’s dramatic description of her own journey that he recorded through an interview.  Ivan escaped on a kindertransport, which he will describe. 

The program is free and open to all. 

Additional information here.

This program was originally scheduled for December 2012 but was postponed due to inclement weather.

Zoning Change Will Reverberate Through Middletown's Neighborhoods

Ed McKeon is a former Middletown Eye editor, and resident of Pearl Street.  He is challenging the expansion of the MX Zone, and recommended that former residences in the ID Zone be regulated as a residential zone with adaptive reuse allowed.  This is an opinon piece.

The ripple effect of the proposed MX zone change will be significant.

The proposed change will bring the possibility of high-volume, high-traffic restaurants and retail to neighborhoods which have not experienced this kind of activity previously.

And while the change is proposed only for property which fronts state highways (Rte 3 - Newfield St., Rte 66 - Washington St., and Rte. 17 South Main Street), it is not only those streets which will be affected.

Wording in the proposed change allows developers to acquire contiguous lots, allowing for traffic to flow on side streets instead of on the busy state highways.  So, streets which would not, on first glance, appear to be affected, will potentially be the sites for access driveways, parking lots and commercial access.  Dump trucks, delivery trucks and drive-through customers may find their way on thoroughfares, which up until now, have been relatively quiet.

And if these streets are not directly affected by traffic, they will likely be subject to other nuisances associated with commercial development - noise, air pollution, odors, safety hazards and visual blight.

What streets are we talking about?  If your street borders and MX Zone, you may be among those who will experience the reverberations of this change.

Hunting Hill
Birdsey St.
Lake St.
Cottage St.
Burr Ave.
Warwick St.
Oak St.
Glynn Ave.
Loveland St.
Hubbard St.
South Main St.
Pleasant St.
Broad St.
Pearl St.
High St.
Liberty St.
Lincoln St.
Park Place
Berlin St.
Crescent St.

Of course, the city needs development, and developers willing to help us build a prosperous city.  But that development should occur in areas of the town already designated for that kind of activity.  Or, we should fully adopt a form-based zoning code which will control the size, shape and design of all developments proposed in the city.

The Middletown Planning and Zoning Commission meets Wednesday, February 27, 7 PM, in City Hall's Council Chambers to deliberate two significant zoning proposals which could affect Middletown neighborhoods.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

From 1963: Bridge Rededication Planned Memorial Day

The following article is from about 50 years ago today, published in the Hartford Courant on February 21, 1963.
There had been at least three previous attempts to name the bridge, including Seicheprey, Mattabeseck, and my personal favorite, General Clarence Ransome Edwards Yankee Division Memorial Bridge

Re-dedication of the Connecticut River Bridge between this city and Portland as the Arrigoni Bridge now is being planned for May 30, Memorial Day.

Preliminary plans for a holiday program were started Wednesday by a small committee of the Chamber of Commerce with other city representatives.

Named For Former Senator
The bridge was renamed at the last session of the general assembly as the Arrigoni Bridge in honor of former state Senator Charles Arrigoni who served as chairman of the county commission which erected the bridge, starting in 1936. The bridge was dedicated in 1938 by state officials after a big parade.

It was known simply as the Middletown-Portland Bridge. The county delegation in the general assembly two years ago pushed through the legislation to honor Arrigoni, a well known Durham contractor.

Regatta Day

Plans for the new dedication still must be made but they may be held as part of a holiday celebration which each year includes the Connecticut Outboard Assn. race regatta on the Connecticut River here.

This usually attracts more than 100 racing outboards in several classes for the events.

New Daughter
A daughter was born to Mr. and Mrs. Raymond Chadbourne of 69 Front St., in Middlesex Memorial Hospital Wednesday.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Body Found In River

From the Middletown Police.
On February 23, 2013 at approximately 1040 hrs. Middletown Police Dispatch received a
call from a Kayaker that she had observed a body in the Connecticut River.

A Note on Saturday Parking from the Book Bower

The latest e-newsletter from the Book Bower used book store in the lower level of Main Street Market has this to say about downtown parking:

This week the Middletown Parking Commission agreed with downtown retailers that a return to free Saturday parking at Melilli and the Arcade parking lots makes sense and will be asking the Mayor and the City Council to authorize the implementation. Can you imagine an inviting atmosphere where you can shop, have lunch and dessert without feeling like you have to leave when your free hour of parking is up. 

If you feel strongly that this will bring a renewed vitality to downtown on Saturdays please call, email or speak personally to the Mayor and ask for his support.

New website to view police activity in Middletown

The Middletown Police Department is utilizing a website called which is a crime mapping service. This website is free of charge to anyone who wishes to use it. This website provides access to the police department’s calls for service going back to July of 2011. The information can be viewed on a map of the city or in the form of a list. The information can be customized to meet the individual person’s needs.

The exact location of the crime is not posted to protect the victims, the crimes are mapped in the area of the crime (within the 100 block).

There is a link to the website. This can be accessed by going to The link is located on the right hand side of the screen “raids online.”

Middletown Police Department
222 Main Street
Middletown, CT 06457

Emergency: 9-1-1
Non-emergencies: 860-347-2541  

You Are Invited To Tea

The thirteenth annual Tea at the Mansion will be Sunday, March 03rd, from 1:00 to 4:00 p.m. at the Wadsworth Mansion. The doors open at 1:00 p.m. to view the tables and shop in the loggia bazaar. Tea service commences at 2:00 p.m.

A three course tea menu from Kim’s Cottage Confections will be served with an estate tea from The Green Room. Hostesses set the tables for the event with their personal china, linens and silver befitting the elegant setting. Each table is unique and represents the style of the hostess. A boutique of selected vendors adds an opportunity for shopping. The loggia bazaar will feature Kim's Cottage Confections, Wild Wisteria, Echo Trader Clothing, Elegant Accents, Adele Frost Handmade Cards, Birdhouse Accents, Green Dahlia, and Fancy That, a vintage rental boutique in Walpole, MA that specializes in tea parties, renting vintage china and glasses to help hostesses plan the perfect tea. Fancy That will also be decorating one of the tables at the tea.

Admission at $30 per person is by advance registration only. Checks should be made out to Friends of Long Hill Estate and sent to the attention of the Tea Committee, 421 Wadsworth Streeet. Seating is limited and first come, first served. Call 860 349-9521 for more information. All proceeds go to the Friends of Long Hill Estate.

Friday, February 22, 2013

The Sweetest Cupcakeries: Nora

Nora Cupcakes is one of the 20 best cupcakeries in the country, according to Red Tricycle. If you have tasted their Irish Car Bomb, this won't be a surprise.

Nora is on Main Street north of Rapallo.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

CCP Did You Know? Fact #5.

The "Did You Know?" Campaign highlights partnerships, connections, and collaborations between Wesleyan and the greater Middletown community. Every Tuesday and Thursday we will post a fact and send it out to WesLive, Middletown Eye, Facebook, Twitter, and beyond. Today's fact illustrates the problem-solving partnership between Wesleyan students and community businesses.

New Officers Elected to Conservation Commission

On Tuesday night there was a regular meeting of the Conservation Commission, and Ellen Lukens and Joan Liska were elected as the new Chair and Vice-Chair, respectively.

Outgoing Chair Jane Brawerman offered her thanks to all the Commission members for their support over the years that she and Sheila Stoane served together to lead the Conservation Commission. Both Jane and Sheila look forward to continuing to work as members to ensure that the City's conservation interests are effectively represented and considered in land use planning and development; that our special natural resources are protected for future generations; and that our environment is healthy for all of our residents, human and otherwise.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Invitation to Support Special Olympics Penguin Plunge

Dear Friends and Family,

The Penguin Plunge takes place in Middletown this Saturday February 23, 2013 at the Polish Falcons on Crystal Lake.  I have decided to take the plunge along side two of my friends veteran participants Caleb Majewski and Nolan Donadio to raise funds to support Special Olympics Connecticut, Inc.  We are on the Frozen Fools Team captained by Karen Nocera. The team consists of  Middletown Park & Recreation Dept. members, Mayor Drew and students from Middletown.

Please support us or consider joining the team in this important project by contributing generously to the Special Olympics Connecticut, Inc. Whatever you can give will help . . . it all adds up! I greatly appreciate your support.

Sincerely with gratitude,

Molly Salafia, Assoc. AIA, LEED GA, PZ Commissioner

To send a donation:

Make all checks payable to: Special Olympics Connecticut, Inc.
The MCA/City Arts & Culture Office has opened registration for Kids Arts 2013. Application brochures are available online, at the City Arts Office, 100 Riverview Center-Suite 140 (next to Fusion Bakery), and they have been distributed to all the public elementary and middle schools and St. Mary's and St. John's schools. Other locations such as Oddfellows Playhouse, The Buttonwood Tree, KidCity, and Amato's will have the brochures also.

The application may be filled out online but then must be printed out and signed before submission to the Arts Office. You can also save the online version to your desktop to fill out later. It is our recommendation that you print out a blank copy of pages 3 and 4. Fill these pages out offline and then go back to complete the application at one sitting. As an alternative, you can finish one page and print it, then go back later to complete the other page. Don't forget to complete all fields and sign.

Wadsworth Mansion Bridal Show

The Wadsworth Mansion at Long Hill Estate is hosting their annual Wedding Show on Sunday, February 24, 2013. The Show will be open to the public from 11:00 a.m. until 3:00 p.m. The fee for guests will be $5.00 a person.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Something for everyone, this week at the Buttonwood Tree!

This week at the Buttonwood... yoga, movies, music, & more!

Tonight (2/19) at 7 pm, de-stress with Laughter Yoga. Free, fun, and healthy! Dress comfortably and be prepared to move around. Laughter yoga produces endorphins and boosts self-confidence, so come if you're having a rough week or if you just want to have a good time!

On Wednesday (2/20), our Buddhist Film Series continues with My Reincarnation at 7 pm. My Reincarnation, directed by acclaimed documentarian Jennifer Fox, chronicles the epic story of the high Tibetan Buddhist Master, Chรถgyal Namkhai Norbu, and his western-born son, Yeshi.

Thursday (2/21) is our first concert of the week: Alex Vans & the Hide Away will be performing at 8 pm. Alex Vans turns his keen observations of pop culture into guitar-laden indie rock with tight melodic hooks and sincere lyrical sensibility. His latest album, DJ Booth, came out this January.

On Friday (2/22) at 8 pm, we have another exciting concert for you: folk/acoustic sister duo Ari & Mia Friedman. With their beautiful harmonies, picking, and bowing, they explore the traditions of Southern Appalachia and Northeastern fiddle music, their original compositions crossing paths with older traditions.

As always, Saturday mornings at the Buttonwood offer great events for strengthening your body and nourishing your soul. Qigong starts at 7:30 am, followed by Vinyasa-style Community Yoga at 8:45 am, both free. Then, at 10:30 am, Spiritual and Holistic Healer Annaita Gandhy will be hosting the "Aligned with Source" workshop, focusing this week on "Balancing your Masculine & Feminine." There is a $5 suggested donation, but, as with all Buttonwood Tree events, we will never turn anyone away for lack of funds.

Later on Saturday, we will be hosting a book signing with Liela Fuller!  Her first book, a collection of poetry called Life's Reflection, has just been released, but writing has been her passions since she was a young girl. Come from 3 to 5 pm to talk to this amazing new author.

Last but definitely not least, the Federico Ughi Quartet will be performing on Saturday night at 8 pm. Federico Ughi’s captivating jazz infuses the New York avant-garde sound with a sense of melody inspired by the Italian classical and folk traditions of his childhood in Rome.

All events are at the Buttonwood Tree Performing Arts & Cultural Center:
605 Main Street
Middletown, CT

For tickets to any of our events, please call us (860-347-4957) or visit our website at

CCP Did You Know? Fact #4.

The Center for Community Partnerships' "Did You Know?" Campaign highlights partnerships, connections, and collaborations between Wesleyan and the greater Middletown community. Every Tuesday and Thursday we will post a fact and send it out to WesLive, Middletown Eye, Facebook, Twitter, and beyond.

Bundle of Kale in Refrigerator Suspects the Worst (Popcorn by The Colonel # 32)

Routine municipal testing confirms continued existence of law of gravity

On a night in late October
When I was one-third sober
And was taking home a load with manly pride
My feet began to stutter
So I lay down in the gutter
And a pig came up and lay down by my side.

Middletown Residents Make Xavier Honor Roll

Headmaster Brother Brian Davis, C.F.X. and Principal Brendan Donohue have announced the Honor Roll for the second marking period. The criteria for a student to qualify for “high honors” are a grade point average of at least 3.75 and no grade lower than a B (limit one B only) in his major subjects. To attain “honors” in a given marking period a student must have at least a 3.25 grade point average and no grade lower than a C (limit one C only) in his major subjects. Physical Education and the SAT Prep Course are NOT included in the tabulation for Honor Roll.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Where Does Vision for Development Start


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 ... sprawl."

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.

I 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."

Well, 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.

Who does 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?

I 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 there.

Councilman Pessina Calls For Report On Blizzard Response

From Councilman Pessina

As I have been reviewing all of the posts from our city residents stranded and paralyzed by this Blizzard Event, which as others I have personally experienced, as the Council Minority Leader and member of the Public Safety Commission and Finance and Government Committees I am calling for the following information to be presented to both of these commissions at both of our meetings scheduled for later this month:

1. That Mayor Drew present the results of his Emergency Management After Action Report, which will detail department by department the challenges that they were presented with, as well as their successes in keeping our community safe and accessible; the caveat of course are those residents who's streets were not open in a timely fashion; we need to identify them and ensure that in the future we can galvanize private & public collaboration to prevent this from occurring in the future.