2015-10-29 / Opinion

Middletown: Don't Squander Your Chance to Be Heard


You’re familiar with all the remarks. People love to talk about the section of West Main Road that runs through Middletown. And they usually have nothing kind to say. What they do express are such words and thoughts as “Why do we have to have so much commercial? Ugly strip malls? Spruce it up: Why can’t they fill those vacant storefronts?”

If you live in Middletown and you’ve heard the same things or thought the same things, the first week of November—to be exact Monday, Nov. 2 and Thursday, Nov. 5—will afford you two chances to say something about it to the town officials who are in a position, at least in theory, to avert further damage and, hopefully, to begin to change what’s already there.

On both of these evenings, the Middletown Town Council will hold hearings focusing on the town’s new Comprehensive Community Plan and the need to, in one case, make zoning revisions pertaining to certain land parcels to bring them into compliance with the plan. In the other case, the council will consider several other plan changes sought by Rhode Island's Division of Planning.

If you care about the appearance of West Main Road from the Portsmouth town line to the Newport city line, you should turn out and speak out. Your voice needs to be heard!

Of course, the town may take great pains to ensure that remaining open spaces along this roadway are developed in a more refined manner, with an eye toward curb appeal. We urge them to do so. But for the rest of it? Sadly, that horse left the barn years ago. As a famous football coach likes to say, “It is what it is.”

We feel the pain of those who’ve lived on Aquidneck Island long enough to remember, for example, when the predecessors to the strip malls that now dominate the area were pastoral farmlands. Those are nice memories, we are sure, but no longer the reality.

However, there are still ways to improve that which is already there. Planting attractive greenery to break up acres of asphalt parking lots would help. Another idea would be to do away with unattractive signage and replace it with more tasteful, low-key signs that could deliver the same messages but in a less offensive manner.

Of course, the visible results of a more robust economy more retail openings and the filling in of some of the area’s currently vacant storefronts, would certainly be a welcome sight.

All of this, of course, is a long-range prescription that will take decades to realize.

Meanwhile, Middletown, the first week of November is your chance to speak your mind. If you stay home sitting on your hands, you become part of the problem rather than a vociferous agent of change.

Do it!

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