To the Editor (the Source, zip06):
Let’s not rush to referendum on a development bid regarding the Academy site, now targeted for this November by the First Selectman. At his urging, we are barreling down a one-way street toward development. In the driver’s seat is the false belief that a developer is the expert we need. Note to all: A developer is an expert at development, but we are the experts at how we live our lives, the shared values this community holds, and most important, how we envision our town’s future.
To the Board of Selectmen’s credit, they’ve called for three recent public hearings concerning Academy. In the process a funny thing happened. Scores of people came out. Stranger yet, and unexpected, we found we enjoy listening to one another. Rather than calling for an artificial endgame, we are just beginning to understand each other.
Why waste this opportunity? Why not call all key stake-holders together –the young, senior citizens and the elderly, new families, long-established residents, North and South, students and local entrepreneurs, various town agencies and commissions. Let’s all of us sit down at the table to envision a town-wide strategic plan that wildly exceeds the narrow capability of a development firm.
How? – The non-profit group, Project for Public Space has helped communities for over 40 years conduct hearings, trainings and workshops with the goal of “placemaking” (outlined on www.pps.org). They’ve worked throughout the U.S. and across the globe. Currently they’re working with Middletown on their waterfront and, a little up the road, helped facilitate the WaterFire project in Providence. Conveniently for us, they’re located in NYC.
After three public hearings we are finally coming to understand that the Academy site is not an opportunity for development, but a creative opportunity for all of us to realize our town’s future together.
Lynne Charles, Madison