Anne Mikolay

I rarely comment publicly on Facebook, but this morning I made an exception when someone posted an aerial view of The Heritage at Middletown, the townhomes currently under construction on Route 35 South, across from Target. The photo clearly showed the extent of this ongoing project. My impulsive response, “I don’t see progress when I look at this, and it angers me,” triggered a flurry of reactive comments. Apparently, the general consensus in Middletown is that The Heritage is “disgusting,” an “eyesore,” a “monstrosity” resembling “army barracks.” There were, however, a few opposing opinions, one of which gave me pause.

In response to my succinct comment that I fail to see progress when I look at the Route 35 construction site, someone suggested I examine my values to find out “why this is the case.” The Heritage, he correctly pointed out, represents homes for people. Why, then, he asked, does the surrounding community take issue with that, “outside of literal pearl clutching?” I’m not one for “pearl clutching” (that phrase makes me chuckle), but examining my values is an insightful proposal. Why does The Heritage construction site irritate me? Why don’t I view increased housing as progress?

The potential positive economic impact of The Heritage can’t be denied, but there’s far more than the almighty dollar to consider. Enhanced socio-economic development is a good thing, but why does “progress” have to be ugly and destructive? Why is it necessary to bulldoze every single tree and displace wildlife to achieve “progress?” Surely, somewhere there’s an architect/construction company capable of building homes within the existing landscape, thereby preserving the natural elements that attracted many of us to this area in the first place! I have nothing against new construction in Middletown, but I take issue with anything that disrespects nature and recreates the “city feel” I happily abandoned thirty-five years ago when I relocated here from New York City.

Examining our values, as the Facebook poster wisely suggested, will reveal what is most important to us and whether or not we are living in the right place. Some people don’t need or want nature and are content without maintaining lawns, trimming trees, guarding against wildlife. They are happy with a patch of concrete and a potted plant. Others take inspiration from nature and enjoy responsibility for it. There is no right or wrong here, but one way of life should not encroach upon another. A happy community is a balanced community that knows and respects one another’s values.


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Me? I’m a nature lover. I love trees and wildlife. I like watching the treetops for signs of the changing seasons. A deer sighting makes me happy. I’ll contentedly watch birds nesting and squirrels playing. Sacrificing these elements I value so highly would be too steep a price for me to pay for “progress.” And that’s why I don’t appreciate the “progress” imposed by the construction on Route 35.

Uh oh! Perhaps I’m a pearl-clutching tree hugger after all! Or am I merely an old Middletowner who does not want to see the character and beauty that drew me to the area systematically destroyed?

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Anne Mikolay

Anne M. Mikolay joined The Atlantic Highlands Herald as a columnist in 2008. Prior to penning “The Armchair Critic,” Anne wrote feature articles for The Monmouth Journal. Her work has appeared in national...