MIDDLETOWN, NJ - The Middletown Township Committee Regular meeting on Tuesday, July 20 addressed a wide variety of concerns.
One issue concerned the influx of visitors to parks and beaches in Middletown, specifically Ideal Beach in North Middletown and Dutch Neck Park in River Plaza.
Early in the meeting, the Township Committee unanimously voted to close the township's public beaches at 8 pm. This decision is in light of heightened volumes of visitors to smaller beaches in Middletown; Ideal Beach being one of the prime examples.
Other beaches in the Middletown area - such as Sandy Hook - are functioning at 100% capacity, causing concern about social distancing. Bayshore beaches have increased in popularity because they are less crowded. However, increased visitation changes the quality of life in the surrounding neighborhoods, due to competitive parking and increased foot traffic. The 8 pm curfew intends to give the residents relief from the effects that increased through-traffic has had on their community. It was noted that the curfew does not apply to Bayshore Waterfront Park, as the county owns that.
Another concern over increased traffic volumes comes from residents who live next to Dutch Neck park in River Plaza. Multiple residents of this neighborhood voiced their concerns over the increase of foot traffic, noise and litter they have been experiencing.
"There is way too much litter," voiced one concerned citizen, who said she has been maintaining the section of the trail behind her house for 30 years.
Increased noise volumes at the park due to cars and the influx of teenagers going there had another resident frustrated, as the noise disrupts her household late into the evening. The Committee was understanding about this concern but stated that due to the pandemic, options for teens are limited, which suggests the increase may only be temporary.
The Committee assured residents that the Middletown Police department is patrolling the area and will ensure that the park and the surrounding neighborhoods are safe for visitors and residents. The Committee stated there is a plan to reopen the entrance to Dutch Neck via Schulz Drive and close the opening to the park on Meadow Ave, within the next couple of weeks. This plan intends to relieve the issue of excessive on-street parking that has been impacting residents of Meadow Avenue.
Open Space on the November Ballot
Another important topic of discussion amongst Committee members was the preservation of open space in Middletown Township. The decision will be made by Middletown voters this fall to increase the annual collection rate to the Middletown Open Space, Recreation, Floodplain Protection, And Farmland And Historic Preservation Trust Fund. That decision has not been on the ballot since 2002, and, as one Committee member noted,
"It is imperative for all of us to examine and to know that there is space around town that we should, and we can work to preserve."
The Committee unanimously supported a resolution to include a referendum on the November 2020 General Election Ballot to amend the dedicated Open Space Trust annual collection rate from $.02 to $.03 per $100 in equalized valuation.
The Middletown Open Space Trust was established by the voters of Middletown in 1998 with a dedicated tax levy of $.01 per $100 in equalized valuation to ensure that the Township would be able to fund acquisitions and improvements to open space and parkland properties. In 2002, voters supported an amendment to an annual collection rate of $.02 per $100 in equalized valuation.
“As we look toward Middletown’s future, we must act to ensure that we preserve as much of our undeveloped land as possible, so now we ask the community for their support and vote to help us save it,” said Mayor Tony Perry. “All of us have the opportunity to preserve the Middletown we hope to pass along to the next generation.”