2015-12-10 / Opinion

‘Big Box’ Ban Moves Closer

By James Merolla

Middletown came one step closer to placing a temporary ban on so-called "big box" development – large-scale shopping centers or buildings that exceed 35,000 square feet – after a very quiet public hearing on Monday, Dec. 7.

The first of two planned hearings brought only two people to the microphone – Claudia and Tom Gorman – who vehemently spoke against any new retail plazas now and forever.

A nurse by profession, Claudia Gorman said she takes a “world view” on this issue and the planet itself is losing its “liver, lungs, kidneys, heart and soul.” Local action was needed to start effecting change, she added, and “moratorium of big box development is crucial,” as it directly affects water quality, water runoff, the need for electricity and other heat sources, increased traffic, and took away from open space.

“At this point in my life, I have a hard time coming up with any positive reason for any major development,” said Gorman. “Let’s leave some space for the next generation to consider.”

Her husband, Tom, also got philosophical over the long term. He said when he was younger, he and friends would ask, “Do we live to work or do we work to live?” He then asked a corollary of that question: “Does a community exist for the benefit of commerce or does commerce exist for the benefit of a community?”

Gorman said, after all, this was agricultural land at issue and that building large commercial structures would be “short-sighted, suicidal and beyond stupid.”

No one on the council spoke about the issue, although Council President Robert J. Sylvia first introduced the moratorium proposal in late October. They voted to approve the ordinance upon its first reading by a vote of 6-0, with council member Henry “Rick” Lombardi absent.

The council is expected to vote on enacting the ban after the second hearing at the next meeting on Jan. 19 at Town Hall.

However, even if passed, the moratorium will only be in effect for six weeks, expiring, as proposed, on March 2, 2016.

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