The Middletown Town Council on Monday night unanimously endorsed plans to convert the former Navy Lodge property and adjacent public lands at the West Main Road-Coddington Highway junction into a village-style center for business, retail and government center uses.
The vote by resolution came at the request of Middletown Planning Director Ronald Wolanski, who presented the 110-page finalized conceptual plan two weeks ago and requested the council's endorsement in order for the project to move forward.
“What were doing tonight is putting our thumb print on a long-term plan,” Town Administrator Shawn Brown said prior to the council's vote. Brown explained that the council's official endorsement is needed for town planners and other officials to engage stakeholders such as potential developers as partners and solidify the town's commitment to move forward.
Town resident Manny Mello spoke up about his concerns that the town would have to acquire additional land in order to complete the project, however Brown maintained that the only acquisition on the table is the Navy surplus land the town is seeking.
The project was received with much enthusiasm from town officials Monday night.
"This is the most exciting economic development proposal," said Councilor Bruce Long. "It puts the Town Council in the driver’s seat about what will happen to that property."
"This is probably one of the most important decisions this council will be making for the Town of Middletown," Councilor Christopher Semonelli said.
During the spring and summer, the Town of Middletown gathered public input over a series of workshops and hearings as the Planning Department fine-tuned the plan and as the Town of Middletown proceeded through the Navy surplus land conveyance application process with the Aquidneck Island Reuse Planning Authority (AIRPA).
Now that the council has given its official support, the west side redevelopment project will involve a zoning review, marketing and outreach to potential developers, as well as additional talks with the Middletown Public Library, Parks & Recreation Department and the Middletown Public Schools District to assess their facility needs as the town eyes the conversions of the recreational ball field, library and closed John F. Kennedy Elementary School.
In July, AIRPA approved Middletown’s reuse plans for the Navy surplus property at the corner of West Main Road and Coddington Highway, as well as for waterfront property to develop a park on the west side off Green Lane. In August, AIRPA submitted the town's application to the U.S. Department of Defense and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban development (HUD) for their final approvals.
See the complete discussion and Oct. 3 Town Council meeting on video here.