Hosting signs saying, "hands off our neighborhood," "don't make a MXstake," "support Main Street not sprawl" and "mayor, you put your money on the wrong horse," about 75 people crisscrossed the intersection of Washington and High streets in Middletown to oppose a proposed commercial complex in a historic, residential neighborhood Monday.
The rally, a protest planned during rush hour along busy Route 66 by the Facebook group No Strip Mall/No Wrecking Ball, was attended by residents of the city's Village District, North End and other Middletown homeowners, Wesleyan University students and children of those gathered.
"The planning and zoning board should be putting together these plans, not large corporate interests," said resident Topher Polack. "Having a private big-heeled organization" dictating zoning regulations means "you're going to have more and more of these developers trying to drop these big box stores in."
Those who spoke had to do so loudly, over the din of traffic, beeping horns, and passersby yelling their support. The unmistakeable "BEEP, BEEP, BEEP" crossing signal cadence continued like a transportation metronome throughout the hour-long event as protesters crossed Washington and High Streets, north to south, east to west and back again.
"The street is already a deadly street," said co-organizer, resident and Board of Education member Ed McKeon. "I think it's going to make traffic gridlock, it's going to cause safety problems, it's going to cause the destruction of this neighborhood, which is most important."
Marcella Trowbridge of ARTFARM recalled a horrific accident that took place while she was Assistant Artistic Director at Oddfellows Playhouse.
"I held a 17-year-old in my arms until Lifestar came 11 years ago. She was crossing just down there, just past Broad Street, she was hit by a car. She was one of my students, my costume assistant," she said.
Resident and KidCity founder Jen Alexander was most touched by the children who turned out to make and parade their own signs, saying, "we walk to school," and "kids cross the road."
"They cannot possibly understand why somebody would want to take down these beautiful old houses just to put up more fast-food restaurants or offices — which we have, you, know, you can see them in either direction here, why not leave a few of those up?"
About 15 minutes after protesters began the rally, two Middletown Police officers showed up to keep an eye on proceedings. They were soon joined by two others, who stood on the sidewalk about five yards from the intersection.
Even a local eatery showed its alliance with those gathered as a tray of grinders and dessert cookies was dropped off by Michael's Deli of Broad Street surreptitiously for protesters who might need refueling.
Longtime Russell Library librarian, now retired Carol Schulz said the intersection is already busy enough. "This is a thriving, wonderful community. I lived in the North End for 25 years."
She called driving as the sun set a "nightmare. You can't see pedestrians, you can't see anything."
Jamie Datino, who's lived on High Street for three years, said she stopped by hoping to chant a slogan she came up with. "Centerplan, find other land, we the people are not a fan ... Mayor Drew this goes for you."
Datino used to walk to work every day, crossing High at Washington Street. "Until the day I almost got hit." Not normally a political person, Datino said after attending the last planning and zoning meeting, she was upset with the mayor's support of the plan.
"What are you backing?" she asked, referring to the supporters of the zoning text change. Once the code is changed, Datino said, there is nothing people can do to oppose it."
The Planning and Zoning Commission will meet Wednesday at 7 p.m. in Middletown’s City Hall to deliberate and vote on the proposed change.
Catch up on the issue by reading these related articles
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- Zoning Changes Will Have A Disastrous Ripple Effect
- I Hope We Won't Have To Clean Up After the "Elephant In the Room"
- Zoning Change Bad for Middletown's Bottom Line: Here's Why
- Protect Excellent Urbanism in Middletown's Mixed-Use Zones
- Standing Room Only as Taxpayers Pack Council Chambers Opposing Zoning Change
- Does A Fast-Food Drive-Thru Belong Here?
- Chain Restaurants VS Historic Neighborhoods