Planning & Zoning Commission Approves Zoning Text Change

Wash

After some lengthy discussion, the Middletown Planning and Zoning Commission has unanimously approved zoning text changes first submitted by representatives of Centerplan Company, now with substantial amendments. The room was once again packed with members of the public, including many students, faculty, and staff from Wesleyan.

The newly amended changes, in the eyes of the Commissioners, affords the P&Z greater authority to exercise oversight upon actual submitted proposals for development.

As these new changes alter the nature of special exceptions in MX Zones (which include the relevant section of Washington Street), Centerplan will now have to submit a development proposal to the P&Z for a special exception to go forward with their planned development (sans bookstore and in the face of continued opposition by the public). Yes, there will be another public hearing.

Ah, government.

The Commissioners’ conversation and amendments to the amendments primarily focused on concerns presented by the public at the previous P&Z meeting, most notably the historic character of the neighborhood, traffic safety concerns, the residential setting, pollution and the environment hazards of development, and the size of developments that would potentially be allowed under the new zoning text.

The Vice-Chair of the P&Z, Nicholas Fazzino, initially presented a number of amendments to the text changes proposed by Centerplan representatives at the last meeting, and these amendments were themselves added to and amended by various members of the commission in attempts to address the above concerns. Some of the new amendments include the elimination of minimum building size requirements, the imposition of new requirements to prevent the destruction or alteration of certain historic buildings (though, according to Jen Alexander ’88, not the relevant ones), and efforts to prevent ‘bleeding’ of traffic into residential streets.

The Commission also discussed (at the suggestion of Alternate Member Elizabeth Emery) carbon footprint evaluations and operation hours restrictions, but the body ultimately decided not to require these restrictions in the zoning code but would instead pursue them by other means.

Ed McKeon’s proposed zoning text changes have been delayed yet again, until the next P&Z meeting in two weeks (7PM on March 27th, City Hall).

8 thoughts on “Planning & Zoning Commission Approves Zoning Text Change

  1. question

    I know that Wesleyan is under contract to sell the Washington Street properties, but has the deal officially been inked? If not, maybe there’s hope that Wes students could hold a mass protest to sway the administration to renege.

    1. Batte_A

      At the last WSA meeting, Roth indicated that that while nothing had been signed, the administration was still expecting to go forward with the deal. So yes, there’s probably a role for some sustained student pressure here.

      1. Ross

        I absolutely think this is needed, Wes students (and I think we would need to work with many people in Middletown outside Wes for this to be effective and more than just a flash of superficial protest) can have a lot of leverage in this situation, and for more reasons than just that the school might sell its properties.

  2. Jen Alexander '88

    Thanks for covering this issue Wesleying. Your article notes that there was an amendment to prevent the destruction or alteration of historic buildings, which is what any normal person would think on watching the hearing or reading the text. But the prevention only applies to buildings on the Inventory done by the Greater Middletown Preservation Trust. Sounds great, right? Except that the inventory is not a list of the historic buildings that matter – that’s the National Historic Register (which has recognized Washington Street for both the quantity and quality of the historic streetscape.) The vote tonight absolutely allows the demolition of buildings on the Register – only a few of those buildings are in the Inventory.

    Semantics matter, and – big surprise here – the buildings that were proposed for the bookstore/drive-thru restaurant complex are on the Register but not the inventory.

    I call that slick.

    1. pyrotechnics

      Thanks, Jen. I’ve adjusted the article text. I was rather wary of the language used in the hearing, but didn’t have enough information to draw conclusions and so just left it at “new requirements to prevent…”

      Anyway, thanks for the info.

  3. Mita

    The sad thing is though even if Ed’s passes, at this point it will only protect the three properties (ie. the ones considered for Centerplan’s development) but NOT the rest of Washington St. which may very well be opened up: the only thing protecting it now is the fact that Wesleyan owns the program houses there but the zone will be opened to proposed developments should Wesleyan sell the properties (as it is planning to do?). Correct me if I’m wrong. Also does someone have deets on the adaptive reuse clause?

    1. Jen Alexander '88

      Hi Mita, It’s true that Ed has proposed a zone change which would protect some of the properties that just got changed on Wednesday night. That application will be heard on March 27th at 7 pm at City Hall, and it would have virtually the opposite effect to the changes that P&Z just approved, so I think it has very little chance of passing. Actually, something less than very little.

      Background for others: P&Z just increased the uses allowed in the MX (Mixed Use) zone (new drive-thrus, big retail). Some of the land proposed for development is actually under the ID (institutional) zone, but the MX rules are used if the nearby institution – in this case, Wesleyan – is not using the buildings for their purposes.

      Under Ed’s proposal – properties which are ID but not used by the University would revert to RPZ (Residential Pre-Zoning) instead of MX. That means the ID would stay primarily residential with special exceptions for offices that would do an adaptive historic reuse – that means renovating an old house for use as an office.

      -Jen Alexander ’88

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