Lack of quorum at Middletown zoning meetings unacceptable

February 27, 2017

By: Larry McHugh

I must, unfortunately, begin this week’s chamber column on a disappointing note after learning that the Middletown Planning and Zoning Commission has not had a quorum for its last two meetings. The Planning and Zoning Commission is very important to economic development in the city. Business owners and project developers spend a lot of time, energy and resources preparing for these meetings. The fact that hearings on these projects are delayed due to lack of quorum is unacceptable. These commission members are elected officials and they have a responsibility to attend these meetings and allow the process to run its course. I encourage the Planning and Zoning Commission to recommit to having quorums for its meetings and to allow the City of Middletown to continue its progress.

March arrives this week in Middlesex County, and the chamber team continues to be on the move.

The 2017 Legislative Event Series continues this Monday morning at the Inn at Middletown. Speaker of the House Joe Aresimowicz will serve as keynote speaker and will participate in a question and answer session with our members. The chamber’s Board of Directors and Legislative Committee will have the opportunity to ask questions about the session and discuss some important issues on our 2017 Public Policy Agenda. This event is sponsored by our friends at Updike, Kelly & Spellacy, P.C. We thank UKS, especially chamber Executive Committee member, and Legislative Committee Co-Chair Rich Carella, for their strong and continued support of this event. I also want to thank Speaker Aresimowicz for taking the time to visit with our group during what is certainly a very busy time for him and legislative colleagues. We look forward to a productive discussion.

Our February Business After Work networking reception will be held this Monday evening at the Sheraton Hartford South Hotel in Rocky Hill. In addition to a great spread of food and drink for our members and their guests, this event will feature outstanding networking and will provide our friends at the Sheraton Hartford South Hotel with the opportunity to showcase their terrific facility. I want to again thank General Manager Lori Brooks, Director of Group Sales and Business Travel Gina Molde, Director of Sales Jamie O’Connor, Director of Catering Jen Gokey, and the entire team for hosting this major networking reception. This Business After Work event has become an annual tradition in Rocky Hill, and we look forward to another fun evening.

The chamber’s Westbrook Division will hold its February meeting on Tuesday morning at Water’s Edge Resort and Spa. The meeting will feature updates from Town of Westbrook officials, a chamber update, and a presentation from the chamber’s Affordable Housing Committee. The Westbrook Division is a key part of the chamber’s shoreline infrastructure, and we continue to appreciate the support of co-chairs Phil Cocchiola and Mary Brewster, and all of our Westbrook-based members.

Our Portland and East Hampton Division will meet on Wednesday morning at Angelico’s Lake House in East Hampton. This meeting will also feature reports from key local officials, in addition to updates on the economic development activity happening in both towns. We also continue to appreciate the support of our Portland chair, Mary Dickerson, and our East Hampton chair, Dean Markham, along with all of our committed members in these two important member towns.

Wednesday morning will also feature the March meeting of our Environment, Land Use and Energy Committee. The Environment, Land Use, and Energy Committee is comprised of attorneys, engineers, environmental specialists, developers and other professionals. The committee focuses on important environment, land use and energy issues that have a direct impact on the business community in Middlesex County. The committee is led by Andrew Lord and Tim Myjak, and I thank them for their longtime leadership of this important chamber group.

Central Business Bureau (CBB) will meet on Thursday morning from 8:00 a.m.-9:00 a.m. in the chamber conference room. Hosted by NoRA Cupcake Company, the meeting will feature city updates from Mayor Dan Drew and other key officials, updates from a number of Middletown stakeholders, and a preview of the 33rd Annual Business After Work Auction & Taste of Downtown which is scheduled for Tuesday, March 28 at Italian Society of Middletown. We look forward to another productive meeting of the Central Business Bureau which is led by Tom Byrne, another longtime chamber supporter and President of Connecticut Rental.

A busy week closes on Friday morning with a meeting of the Chester, Deep River and Essex Division at Chester Town Hall. The Chester, Deep River and Essex Division, led by its chairman, Geoff Jacobson, continues to focus on the important issues facing the business community in these three member towns. This meeting will feature local updates and a presentation from Kristina Martineau, Assistant Superintendent of Schools for Regional School District 4.

I look forward to attending a special ceremony on Friday afternoon which will mark the renaming of the train station in Westbrook in honor of the late Eileen Daily. Eileen served as a State Senator in the Connecticut General Assembly from 1993 through 2012. She represented a large portion of Middlesex County during her time in office and served in key leadership roles including five terms as co-chair of the budget-writing Finance, Revenue, and Bonding Committee. At the local level, Eileen served as First Selectwoman in Westbrook from 1983 to 1989, a member of the Westbrook Board of Selectmen from 1989 to 1991, and served on the Westbrook Board of Education from 1976 to 1983. Eileen was a strong supporter of the Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce throughout her career. In September of 2014, we honored her with the prestigious Governor William A. O’Neill Public Service Award, an honor that was well deserved. The train station in Westbrook would not be there today if not for Eileen’s leadership and commitment to her district. I appreciate the invitation to this event which will honor this outstanding woman who was a dedicated public servant and a good friend to many of us.

Excitement is building for our March 13 Member Breakfast Meeting with UConn Head Women’s Basketball Coach Geno Auriemma which will be a sold-out event once again. Coach Auriemma always does a terrific job with his remarks, and I know that our members are looking forward to this year’s visit which will take place right before the start of the 2017 NCAA Tournament. I would like to again acknowledge the support of event sponsor MiddleOak, especially CEO Gary Vallo who sits on our Executive Committee and is a terrific chamber supporter. Members who are interested in attending should register right away. We look forward to welcoming the coach back to Middlesex County.

The breakfast event with Coach Auriemma will be immediately followed by a Small Business Lending Forum and Mini Expo featuring representatives of bank, non-bank and community lenders. The Lending Forum and Mini Expo runs from 9:30 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. and consists of two parts: a one-hour moderated panel discussion followed by a 90-minute mini expo of tabletop displays representing bank, non-bank and community lending sources available to small businesses in Connecticut.  The event is free for small business attendees. I would like to thank our partners at the Connecticut Small Business Development Center for their support of this event and of the business community in Middlesex County and throughout the state.

Finally, the Legislative Event Series continues on Monday, March 20 when we welcome Senator Len Fasano to a special event at the Courtyard by Marriott. Senator Fasano is now the Senate Republican President Pro Tempore, and he will visit with chamber members to discuss the 2017 Regular Session of the Connecticut General Assembly. Meeting attendees will have the opportunity to ask questions about the session, and discuss some important issues on our 2017 Public Policy Agenda. More information will be available as the meeting approaches, but I want to thank Connecticut Water for sponsoring and especially Maureen Westbrook who serves on our Executive Committee and as co-chair of our Legislative Committee.

Spring is on the horizon, and the sun continues to shine on Middlesex County.


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