The Challenge Of Main Street
The notification on January 13 that 19 Main Street, LLC had withdrawn its application for borough zoning regulation changes hinted at a win for the many residents who opposed the proposal for a three-building, 40-unit apartment complex at the site of the former Inn at Newtown.
But hold on. Those opposing the regulation changes should not put away the red garb or toss hats in the air just yet.
Deliberations by the Borough Zoning Commission (BZC) did not necessarily put the nix on residential multifamily dwellings at that property. The comments of the commission, as well as those of the vocal public (both pro and con), will be taken into consideration and a new proposal put forth by 19 Main Street, LLC, according to the group’s attorney. Their hope, it seems, is to modify the proposal in such a way as to make it more palatable to the general public — and gain approval from the borough to move forward.
How the new proposal for regulation changes at that property will differ when presented again to the BZC is not yet clear. The developers have already invested a great deal of time — including a community meeting — and money into this effort. Turning back completely does not seem a likely option.
Letters to the Editor in our pages since this proposal first came forth, as well as comments on various social media outlets, express interest in reviving a similar inn/restaurant facility. Yet no one has stepped up to fork over the multimillions it is estimated it would take to purchase and revive the structure. No group has formed to pool resources and make the dream a reality; so the property remains in limbo, a visual blight on our historic Main Street as the building continues to deteriorate.
What will the community accept? Is it 20, or ten, or five condominiums in two buildings — or one — rather than 40 apartments or some combination? Are we willing to let 19 Main Street degrade before our eyes, holding out for only single family homes or a resurrection of the former business?
The dilapidated Inn at Newtown must be addressed; and no doubt, the future of 3 Main Street, when the police station relocates, will be another Main Street issue of interest.
The Planning and Zoning Commission members voted in November to not endorse the controversial zoning rules changes in the borough. That vote rested on interpretation of the 2014 Town Plan of Conservation and Development that this particular proposal did not fit with those plans. The Borough Zoning Commission, however, holds the reins to steer Main Street in a new, but acceptable, direction. They count on guidance from those who live here, but the reality is that dreams may need to be revisited.
The developers appear willing to adapt; the community owes an equal willingness to listen, in hopes that blight on Main Street can be contained — or present a feasible alternative appealing to a broad population. That’s the challenge. Anyone?