Planning Commission recommends taking no action on alleys

MIDDLETOWN – The Planning Commission will make a recommendation to the Town Council to keep some town-owned alleys.

The town has been considering whether 10 to 15 alleys are real alleyways or if some of them should be  abandoned. Some, while they are called alleys, are not functional alleys and make no sense or are of little use, Mayor Charles Harbaugh said.

Planning Commission interim member Daryl Terrill added, “Some alleys aren’t used. Some haven’t been used for years so there is a liability issue.”

The town’s attorney has expressed concern about the liability of keeping these alleys, which the town has stopped maintaining. Members cited, as an example, of someone falling while walking a dog in one of the alleys.

Commission members questioned why the town’s maintenance department was not maintaining the  alleys.

“They have not maintained them because of expense,” Terrill said.

Part of the commission members’ discussion was about whether they should recommend selling the alleys.

Commission member Joan Roche said she did not think the town should sell the alleys to anyone and questioned the wisdom of the town selling its property.

Commission member John Copeland agreed and questioned what would happen if at a further date the town wanted the land back.

“What if the landowner gets the land, cleans it, maintains it and when the town wants it back says, ‘I am going to buck you. This is my work. This is Saturdays away from my kids and teaching them how to play baseball’,” he said.

After months of discussion, walking the alleys and talking to officials about the possible impact, a letter will be drafted to the Town Council advising it to leave things the way they are.

Terrill then moved on to discussing with Planning Commission members his desire to host talks with area business leaders regarding the town’s economic development; what they are doing right, what they could do and what they need to change.

Shayla Wharton, commission interim vice chair, is working on her master’s degree in organizational leadership and is working on a thesis paper about how to market a small town. She offered to attempt to get approval to use Middletown as her case study.

Members suggested if Wharton could not get her thesis approved that Terrill then talk to Harbaugh first to find out what he is involved in as far as economic development in the community.

Harbaugh had previously tried to host a summit without success, members said.

In another matter, members approved recommending Elizabeth Heishman and Mark Dalton to fill two vacant seats on the Planning Commission. The candidate applications will be forwarded to the Town Council for  review and approval.