Thursday, January 24, 2008
The army wants to be a "good neighbor"
That's the message Diane McCartin, of the Army Corps of Engineers brought to Middletown. If she said "we want to be good neighbors" once, she said it two dozen times.
But neighborliness was not the word I would use to describe the feeling in the packed chambers of the Middletown Common Council Thursday night when the Army arrived to explain why they'd chosen a site in Maromas, along Freeman road to build an Army Reserve Training Center. The Army's presentation was vague, at best (and in fairness the plan is in a very early planning stage), but they could not, or would not talk about budget (except to say they couldn't exceed it), nor about the actual plan for the center, nor about how, precisely they found the site ("they were just driving around" - yes, that's the way they described finding the site). They did say, that the site off Freeman was suitable because it was "buildable" (their word, not mine), accessible from major roadways, and not a brownfield.
McCartin, who is obviously sent on the road because she's affable, and good at "selling" a project, seemed to expect to tame the angry beast which was the attending crowd. She found zero support. By the end of the meeting she had heard dozens of reasons why neighbors, open space advocates, anti-army students, and concerned residents thought building on the site was a very bad idea. And while she continued to smile, it appeared as if she, and the Army might not be convinced to choose another site. This, despite a resident, and Hartford Courant "Place" columnist Tom Condon explaining that the language of the Congressional act allowed the army to choose another site, and another town, "if a suitable site" was not found in Middletown.
McCartin received courteous, but firm, indications from new town councilor Phil Pessina, veterans Earle Roberts and Ron Klattenberg (representing the Democratic caucus) that building on undeveloped, untouched open space was a bad idea when there were several brownfields with potential. Even the mayor, a former supporter of the idea, seemed to back away when he suggested the Army consider brownfield development. The pile-on got higher when State Representative Gail Hamm indicated that state representatives would work with the the city, state representatives, and the DEP to trigger an option to purchase the property so the Army could not.
For her part, McCartin seemed unmoved, except to say that "the Army wants to be a good neighbor, that's why we're here," and explaining that she would never recommend that the Army build on a brownfield (a former industrial site).
Props to all the neighbors, open space advocates, Wesleyan students and residents who attended and spoke out against what appears to be yet another very bad idea from the Army Corps of Engineers.