HomeIndependentIndependent NewsMiddletown redevelopment plan expected to be topic of discussion

Middletown redevelopment plan expected to be topic of discussion

 The Middletown Township Committee has set Aug. 20 as the date for a public hearing on a proposed redevelopment plan for a 100-acre property at 853 Route 35 in Middletown.

The site is currently home to Circus Wines, Beer & Spirits and is the former location of a Foodtown Superstore.

That evening of Aug. 20, residents will have the opportunity to comment on the proposed mixed-use commercial and residential development that would be permitted on the parcel if it receives the governing body’s stamp of approval.

Committee members may vote to approve the redevelopment plan following the public hearing. The plan was introduced on July 16.

The Middletown Planning Board was scheduled to meet on Aug. 13 to discuss the council’s plan to rezone the commercial property at 853 Route 35 to allow for residential units at that location.

Board members were also expected to discuss the proposed redevelopment project and to determine if it is in compliance with the township’s master plan, municipal officials said. 

The retail portion of the redevelopment project has been designed to accommodate up to 400,000 square feet of commercial space. A total of 350 rental townhouses are proposed on the site, municipal officials said. Of the 350 units, 70 would be set aside as affordable housing for individuals whose income meets certain guidelines.

Monica Manning, who has been a Middletown resident for 18 years, said she is a member of a community group that is opposing the redevelopment plan.

She said residents are concerned with the scope of the project and referred to it as a “high-density” effort to overdevelop the municipality.

“(Public officials) are not working with us … They want to pass the ordinance and then discuss the issues,” Manning said. “This is not appropriate.”

Manning said residents have taken issue with the preliminary site plans they believe do not comply with standards outlined in the master plan.

She reported that residents are concerned with what she called loose restrictions that dictate the appropriate size of “big box” superstores, the lack of open public spaces, threats to the environment and a potential increase in vehicles traveling through the area, among other issues.

Manning said if the proposed site plans move forward, the redevelopment of the former Foodtown parcel would have a negative impact on residents’ quality of life.

“(Public officials) are attracting businesses to come to this location during a current hazardous situation,” she said.

Township Administrator Tony Mercantante said on Aug. 9 that the redevelopment initiative has been on the table for years and was downsized from 1.6 million square feet of commercial space after residents said the initial plan was “too big.”

He called the project a “quality development residents will benefit from” and said the proposed 400,000 square feet of commercial space “is a fraction of the original proposal.”

“This (will be) another opportunity to shop … Everyone needs to understand land owners have a right to develop land. People don’t like change,” Mercantante said.

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