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MIDDLETOWN'S LAND

Middletown occupies a land area of approximately 42.5 square miles, or 27,200 acres. The topography and drainage Map shows the topography of the City area, which varies from flat marshland near the river level to rugged mountain land rising to as much as 900 feet above sea level. This map also must be considered in planning for development. Few towns in central Connecticut have such fine natural features or so many sites with such a broad outlook. This is an asset which should not be lost as the community grows. How Middletown's land is now used is shown on Existing Land Use Map.

Hills, Valleys and Streams
Middletown is located on the west side of the Connecticut River, approximately 30 miles from the mouth. The River is navigable for small and medium size craft as far as Hartford, 20 miles farther upstream. There is some tidal influence in the Middletown vicinity, but a much greater variation in the water level takes place with changing conditions in the River's natural flow. Some of the low-lying land is subject to flooding at times. This part of the River follows a winding course and the navigable channel generally follows the outside of the bends. Its curving course gives the City a total shoreline of approximately 9 miles.

The controlling depth to Long Island Sound is approximately 13 feet at mean low water. A dredged channel at least 150 feet wide is well marked by aids of navigation. The Connecticut is suitable for commercial barge traffic and is considerably used by petroleum carriers. Along much of Middletown's frontage on the River, there is sufficient depth of water to permit dockage facilities. The River is also much used by pleasure boats.

It is an important natural resource for Middletown, with a considerable potential from the recreation and economic point of view. The River contributes greatly to the scenic aspects of Middletown, but unfortunately much of its length is not visible nor available for enjoyment by the residents. Consideration should be given to the possible recreational use of the riverfront by the community.

The Mattabesset River forms the northerly boundary of Middletown. This River, which is also called the Sebethe or Little River, empties into the Connecticut at the Middletown-Cromwell line. It drains a sizable watershed, extending into the towns of Cromwell and Berlin. A tributary, variously known as the Coginchaug or West River, flows into the Mattabesset a half mile above its confluence with the Connecticut. The Cognichaug rises in Middlefield and drains an area in the center of Middletown. Several other tributaries flow into the Mattabesset, along or near the City's northerly boundary. These include the Fall Brook, West Swamp Brook and a number of smaller ones which serve to drain the northwest portion of the City.

Along the westerly boundary, adjacent to Meriden, the land is rugged and in places reaches an elevation of nearly 900 feet. Easterly from this boundary the land becomes more gently rolling. The soils in much of the north and west sections of the City are generally of a medium to heavy character, with slow internal drainage. Some areas have poorly drained soils with clay or silt, although there are limited pockets of well drained gravelly or sandy soils. Near the Mattabesset and Coginchaug Rivers there are extensive areas of alluvial soils, much of them subject to flooding. In general, the soil conditions of this part of the City are suitable for development except at a very low density, unless public sanitary sewerage is available.

Sumner Brook and its tributaries drain much of the south central area of the City. These streams rise near the Middlefield and Haddam lines and join south of the city center, where Sumner Brook flows into the Connecticut. Soil conditions in this part of Middletown vary, but much of the area contains medium to heavy soils which require public sanitary sewerage where development exceeds a low density. There are, however, some limited areas with sandy or gravelly soils, but there are also pockets of poorly drained soils as well as of rocky and rugged land. The topography of most of the south central area is gently rolling, becoming more rugged near the City's south boundary.

East of the line of Route 9 the land is generally more rugged. Most of this area is taken up with reservations such as the State Hospital, utility company projects, state forest land and the federal government's Canel Project. There is, however, a portion which is available for development south of the main hospital plant. The land here is generally rolling and suitable for low density residential development.

The original city center lies on relatively level land, rising slowly from the river level to the Wesleyan campus at the west. The land falls off abruptly into the valley of the Mattabesset in the north and into that of Sumner Brook to the south. This natural topography serves to define and limit the area of the central district.

Existing Use of Land
The Existing Land Use Map shows the present use of land in Middletown, from field information secured by staff of the Commission on the City Plan. Table 5 shows the principal classification of existing land use and the acreage involved. The State of Connecticut is the largest single land owner in the City, with a total of more than 1,700 acres, divided as follows:
 Acres  
  Connecticut Valley Hospital  1,165
 Long Lane Farm  165
 Wadsworth State Park  135
 State Forest  225
 Other  35        
   1,725

The federal government owns a tract of approximately 1,015 acres which is occupied by the Canel Project. Although this is essentially an industrial operation, the greatest part of this tract is rugged and unoccupied. Much of the land of the Connecticut Valley Hospital is unoccupied, although some of it is used to protect the hospital's water supply and some other portions are used for agriculture.

The City owns approximately 730 acres which are used for water supply purposes, including 250 acres being held for a proposed reservoir in the valley of the Fall Brook. City parks occupy a total of approximately 100 acres, and public schools amount for another 130 acres. Street and highways take up a total of slightly over 1,400 acres, including occupied by the new interstate highway and the Route 9 expressway.

Commercial uses are confined to 245 acres, less than one percent of the total land area. Industrial plants occupy altogether approximately 160 acres. An additional 4654 acres are owned by the Hartford Electric Company and occupied in part by an electric generating plant. Most of this land is rugged and vacant. An adjacent quarry occupies another 155 acres. A total of 780 acres may be classified as industrial, but with only 160 acres intensively used.

Wesleyan University's principal campus area takes in approximately 110 acres, a rather small area for so large an institution. The University also owns several tracts of vacant outlying land with a total area of approximately 155 acres.

Residential buildings cover approximately 2,290 acres. Many rural dwellings are situated on large parcels. In the present computations, where an existing house is on a lot capable of subdivision into two or more dwelling sites, an area of one acre only has been counted as presently used for residential purposes. The balance of the parcel is included under undeveloped land.

From Table 5 it is apparent that 66 percent of the City's land is vacant and undeveloped land. Roughly half of this is land which is too rugged, too swampy or otherwise topographically unsuitable for development. The other half constitutes the community's supply of good land for future growth under the principles laid down in the Plan as described in the following pages. This good land amounts to 9,000 acres, as much as the entire area of the City of New Britain.

TABLE 5
PRESENT LAND USE
(Approximate Area in Acres)
Residence 2,290
Commercial 245
Industrial
  Industrial Plants 160  
Quarry 155  
Hartford Electric Light Company 465 780
Park, Forest, Water Supply
  City Water Supply 705  
State Park and Forest 360  
City Parks and Playgrounds 125 1,190
Institutions, Public and Semipublic
  Wesleyan University 265  
Connecticut Valley State Hospital 1,165  
Cemeteries 150  
Long Lane Farm 165  
U.S. Government 1,065  
Public Schools, City 130  
Other 385 3,325
Streets and Highways 1,410
Undeveloped Land 17,960
Total Land Area 27,200

Conditions Affecting Development
The Existing Land Use Map also shows the natural and man-made conditions which affect the City's future development. In the areas which are still vacant, this map shows land which is generally too rugged for normal development, with slopes exceeding 15 percent. It also shows swampy areas and those subject to flooding. Large-scale institutional and public properties and land which is already built up are readily apparent from the symbols of present land use. The remaining land, shown in white on the map, constitutes the areas which are suitable and available for normal development.

These categories of vacant land have been measured by analysis districts and the results are give in Table 6. A key to the analysis districts is given in the Neighborhoods Map in the Chapter on Population Distribution by Neighborhoods. of the entire City's area only about 12 percent is now built up. Another 19 percent is included in institutions and public reservations and approximately 5 percent is contained in streets and highways.

This leaves nearly two thirds of the total acreage in presently vacant land, but approximately half of this is topographically unsuitable for normal development. Middletown now has nearly 8,900 acres, or one third of its land area, which is suitable and available for its normal growth.

TABLE 6
SUITABILITY OF LAND FOR DEVELOPMENT
Area in Acres
Analysis District Total Area* Roads & Streets Reservations & Institutions Built-Up Area Swamps, Flood Plain, Water Bodies, Steep Slopes Areas Suitable For Normal Development
A 2,441 64 48 301 781 1,247
B 2,797 54 558 226 838 1,120
C 1,017 46 68 325 250 328
D 733 85 - 251 103 294
E 1,004 80 396 178 65 285
F 3,349 117 123 289 1,417 1,403
G 2,563 85 100 111 1,016 1,250
H 443 61 30 222 23 108
I 575 58 26 195 80 220
J 298 54 2 184 38 20
K 932 108 384 370 46 20
L 335 51 2 200 67 15
M 7,114 336 3,193 206 2,230 1,149
N 3,144 206 252 120 1,264 1,303
O 455 - - 42 310 103
  27,200 1,405 5,182 3,220 8,528 8,865
100% 5% 19% 12% 31% 33%

* Connecticut and Coginchaug Rivers are not included

 

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