Developers then decided to start from scratch, and bring Middletown residents to the drawing table. Last summer, two dozen residents and business owners worked alongside developers, designers, and traffic and transit authorities on a revised plan.
The proposal calls for a classic-style, walkable downtown akin to State Street in Media. The development would be anchored by a SEPTA rail line stop and include a 225-room hotel, 980 residential units, and a little more than a million square feet of new shops and offices. Greenspace buffers would protect pedestrians from traffic along busy Baltimore Pike.
Developers presented the report to the Township Council earlier this month, but they have yet to file any formal applications, said Scott D. Galloway, chairman of the Township Council.
Frank J. McKee, one of the developers, hails the project as a win-win situation for Middletown residents and developers. The plan, he said, "is a byproduct of smart-growth zoning, which would produce a live/work/play environment that encourages walking and the use of public transportation."
The plans are so extensive, McKee said, that it would be at least two years until construction could begin.
But developers might never win over some residents, even a few who participated in creating the new plan.
The proposal is about two-thirds the size of the previous one, but to opponents, it is still too big.
"To jam something like this in a township is just silly," said John Laskas, a dermatologist who took part in the revision plan. "I'm hoping that the council tells them to go away."
Traffic is one of the biggest concerns, especially at Baltimore Pike and Pennell Road (Route 452), which would be the heart of the new development.
"It's hard enough to get out onto Pennell Road now," said Tony Ieradi, an opponent who also participated in drawing up the new plan, and who lives on the road. "If you had destination retail there, you'd definitely get [more traffic]. And it'd be a killer."
Opponents hope that the township will tell the developers that they will need zoning changes to go forward with their plans.
"We are a well-designed bedroom community," Laskas said. "We don't want to change the character of our town."
The buzzword for opponents has been density: How many stores, offices, or housing units are permitted in the space provided.
Under current zoning standards, developers are entitled to build 1.4 million square feet of office or industrial space on the largest chunk of land.
Developers say that creating a classic downtown where people live, work, and shop tends to require higher density. The buildings are clustered closer together so people can walk or ride bikes to get around, said Victor Dover, part of the design team for the development.
"Who wins when you keep the density down? Megabox stores, strip shopping centers, and stand-alone office parks," he said.
Developers have offered to provide road improvements to Baltimore Pike and other areas to help the project succeed. Those improvements would not occur if the township rejects the town center plan and developers go forward with building an office park.
Contact staff writer Joelle Farrell at 610-627-0352 or at email@example.com.