Monday, December 31, 2007
A few more thoughts on the proposed Army training center
I took a ride through Maromas, down Freeman Road, to check out the site of the proposed Army Reverve Training Center and I could understand why neighbors, conservationists and environmentalists are dismayed. The government document explaining the need to consolidate Army Reserve Bases is here.
The rugged, forested acreage is what's left of the wild side of Middletown.
In addition, in conversation with some knowledgeable folks, I learned a few new facts.
If the base is built on that site, it will need a huge parking lot. How big? Well, according to one knowledgeable source, think about the entire site of Metro Square in downtown Middletown (where Destinta Theaters are located), now cover that entire site with blacktop, and extend the blacktop a quarter mile to the north - all the way to Ferry Street. That's how big the Army Training Center parking lot will need to be. That's how much blacktop will be covering some currently rugged, undeveloped forest land (of which there is very little left in Middletown.)
In terms of running sewer and water to the site, there are apparently millions of dollars available in the federal site plan to build those lines. It would be a convenient way to open the Saybrook Road corridor to commercial development. The Middlesex Chamber of Commerce is apparently very interested in this possibility, and so, is supporting the idea of the Army Training Base. But take a ride to Groton, and examine the kind of commercial interests which spring up around such a site - bars, liquor stores, convenience stores, gas stations, chain restaurants, dollar stores. Is this the kind of development Middletown wants? And is Saybrook Road where we want it to exist?
Indeed, the "trusted" Army Corp of Engineers (remember, they're the ones who built the levees in New Orleans) can build this training center wherever they see fit in Middletown, by federal law, but they have publicly expressed the opinion that they want to work with the town, and will consider other sites, if necessary. Some other proposed sites suggested include CVH (arguably the finest plot of real estate in Middletown), the current, and newly built, juvenile detention center on Silver Street and the old Remington Rand factory site. The feds do not have to adhere to zoning regulations, building codes, land use ordinances, rights of way or any of the other laws which the rest of us townspeople have to obey.
It's still not clear which politician did Middletown the favor of gifting us with the Training Center mandate. Most recently I've heard allegations that it was a deal to build the site in Rosa Delauro's district. For obvious reasons, the site needs to be centralized. But is Portland any less central than Middletown, or Haddam, or Cromwell, or New Britain for that matter. I hate to get all NIMBY about this, but Middletown bears the entire burden of centralized mental health facilities for the state. It's home to a prison for juveniles, a state courthouse, a rail spur for the training of federal engineers. Do we really need more land off the tax roles, and developed in a way over which we have no say?
While it's unlikely that the Army Reserve will be using the training center to teach waterboarding, and more likely that it will be a center for vehicle repair education, the town will have no say over what happens at the site, and the Army will not have to inform the town about activities there.
The good news is that neighbors and land use activists have already had two group meeting to learn more about the proposed development, and are beginning to organize to oppose the building of the center in Maromas.