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Chain Restaurants VS Historic Neighborhoods

A major zoning change may bring high-traffic, chain restaurants to parts of Middletown which haven't see these kinds of commercial businesses before.

On Wednesday, February 13, Middletown's Planning and Zoning Commission will entertain a proposal to change Middletown's MX zone (mixed-use residential) to include construction of high-volume, fast food, drive-thru restaurants and retail stores.

Currently, the MX zone allows for residential buildings, and low-volume commercial development like offices, private clubs and neighborhood stores.  The proposed change is a monumental leap into commercial development that is likely to have a significant negative impact on traffic, air quality, noise pollution and the character of residential neighborhoods in Middletown.

What's more, MX zoning is used for properties zoned ID (Institutional Development), when the institution that owns those properties sells, or no longer controls them.  So, properties formerly owned by Wesleyan University, or Middlesex Hospital are actually governed by the MX zone.

So, for example, the lovely stretch of historically significant homes along Washington Street, from Jackson to Wetmore, most of which is in the National Registry of Historic Places, listed as the Washington Street Historic District, would suddenly be open to the likes of Burger King, KFC, Papa John's, Subway and other such fast food outlets which rely on drive-thru windows.

One of those homes, on the Eastern-most border of the Historic District, is the Reverend E. Campion Acheson House, built in 1916, where Dean Acheson, the Secretary of State under President Harry Truman, lived.

That house is currently occupied by Wesleyan University, and more particularly by students, who live there in a program house called Buddhist House.

But a perfect storm arises.  Wesleyan University has made it known that they are anxious to sell all their property North of Washington Steet (including several homes used as Wesleyan residences), and this change in zoning will come before Middletown's Zoning Commission.  If it passes, one may soon be able to stand in the Indian Hill burying ground, and gaze across the street not to a handsome Neo-Classical Revival home, but, a Red Lobster or an Olive Garden.

You've got my sympathy if you enjoy cheap, mediocre corporate seafood, and are smitten by the plastic charm of Red Lobster, but you won't convince me that another corporate chain will do anything positive for the character, or the economy of Middletown.

I encourage you to attend the planning and zoning meeting, and to make your opinion known.  For more information, check out No Strip Mall, No Wrecking Ball.

  • Wesleyan No Longer Behind Bookstore's Relocation; Mayor Expresses Concern
  • Locals Concerned Over Wesleyan Bookstore Move
  • Strip Mall Versus a Liveable Downtown
  • Mayor Touts Economic Benefits of Wesleyan Bookstore Relocation
  • Do We Need A Mini-Mall on Washington Street?

 

 


The Middletown Planning and Zoning Commission meets Wednesday, February 13, 7 PM, in City Hall's Council Chambers to deliberate two significant zoning proposals.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

William Wilson February 11, 2013 at 10:16 PM
I agree with you 100% James. Done correctly this project could bridge between the old with the new. Which is something Middletown desperately needs in my opinion.
Claudia DeFrance February 19, 2013 at 11:59 AM
Totally agree with Ed!!! The character of this stretch of Washington St needs to be preserved...By the way, how could all this come about in an historic district? There are many other areas of Mddletown to put a Starbucks. I would love to have a store in Middletown..you can't buy a button in Middletown now!
Pam Magnoli February 19, 2013 at 05:06 PM
how come every time I try to read a new article about this issue, the link brings me back to the original story from over a week ago. The headline on this one states 'yesterday' which was Monday the 18th
Claudia DeFrance February 20, 2013 at 12:26 AM
Yes and I believe the p&z meeting has been moved to February 27th..certainly more publicity and awareness is needed...
William Wilson February 20, 2013 at 03:18 AM
I think you leave this up to Planning and Zoning and not have a text change as the writer is asking for. I don't want to make taxpayers properties worth less which this change will do. I am for smart development and don't want to become known as a city that is against development. We need more jobs in town for our youth and need more revenue.

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