Middletown Town Council Debate Affordable Housing, Redevelopment Plans Amid Residents’ Concerns

In a recent Middletown Town Council meeting, heated discussions ensued about the Centra South Redevelopment plan and proposed affordable housing units. The meeting also recognized the Middletown High School South girls cross country team’s state championship victory.

The council meeting, began with recognition of the Middletown High School South girls cross country team’s recent state championship win. Mayor Tony Perry lauded the team’s persistence and teamwork, setting a positive tone for the meeting.

The council moved to discuss the Centra South Redevelopment plan. Dr. Laura Smith-Steens, representing Save Our Swimming River (SOS), voiced concerns about the proposed redevelopment, citing low occupancy during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic and the current occupancy of the office buildings. She requested a re-evaluation of the designated parcels and an environmental impact study, exconcerns about the transparency surrounding the project. When asked about the approval process, a council member explained that an investigation study had been completed in 2022, revealing substantial vacancies.

The discussion evolved into broader issues concerning the redevelopment plans. The process of tenants vacating the buildings was clarified, and it was stressed that the Redevelopment plan established the zoning for the site. However, more specific issues such as stormwater runoff would be addressed during the site plan application process. This explanation did little to assuage the concerns of many residents, who expressed disappointment with the approval process and raised worries about potential environmental and infrastructural impacts.

Affordable housing became another major topic in the meeting, with arguments over the number of low-cost units in the proposed development. Mayor Perry explained that increasing the number of low-cost units would require more market-rate units to offset the costs. This sparked a debate among council members regarding the potential risks of rejecting the current proposal, as it could lead to legal battles and the construction of even more units. One council member suggested reducing the number of market-rate units, but this idea was not fully backed by the rest of the council.

Residents also expressed their concerns about potential adverse effects on the river, building heights, traffic issues, and the safety of children in the neighborhood due to the proposed affordable housing development. One resident acknowledged the importance of affordable housing but emphasized the need for developers to consider the impacts on the surrounding areas. They requested that the planning board provide adequate notice of future meetings to allow residents to voice their concerns.

The council members maintained a dialogue with the residents throughout the meeting, acknowledging traffic issues on Newman Spring Road and expressing a willingness to address them. They also clarified that the proposed building would not exceed the existing four-story height and explained their decisions behind the number of units.

The council members expressed frustration with the state’s lack of clear guidelines on affordable housing, stating that municipalities were left uncertain and had to make settlement agreements without transparency. They argued that the township had taken on its fair share of affordable housing projects and had numerous units around the town.

Later in the meeting, a nurse addressed the council members, urging them to support Bill A4536, which aims to establish minimum nurse staffing standards. The council members expressed their gratitude for the work of nurses and agreed to review the bill and work towards a solution.

Did we get something wrong? Let us know.
Tony Perry
City Council Officials:
Kevin M Settembrino, Kimberly Kratz, Rick W. Hibell (Deputy Mayor), Ryan M. Clarke

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