As a new resident, what I love about Middlefield is that it's both beautiful and unassuming. But my opinion isn't the only one that counts. "The town verges on being redneck!" according to First Selectman Jon Brayshaw. I had a brief conversation with him after the Board of Selectman meeting Monday night.
As I started to settle in here last May, I noticed immediately that something was different. While I'm not sure "redneck" quite captures it, Jon and I both agree on how unique this community is.
Moving from a suburb like Wethersfield, to the rural landscape of Middlefield, I expected folks to stay quietly to themselves. But that couldn't have been further from the truth. My neighbors actually came over to say hello, helped me move furniture in, and invited me to parties. I'd come home from work at night to find that someone mowed part of my lawn. And my neighbors two houses down let me use their kayaks!
It's an amazing feeling, being greeted with such kindness and finding a sense of belonging to a community. Even when it comes down to simple things like waving to one another driving by, and letting the kids from across the street play football on my lawn.
"Where else in Connecticut can you afford to live next to a lake and just be a normal person?" Brayshaw continued. But I have to admit, I had a hard time finding a house that was affordable when I was ready to move here last spring. And that's a sentiment I've heard from others who live in communities nearby, but would love to make Middlefield home.
Finally I settled on what I considered a condo-alternative one bedroom home. It's a converted cottage across the street from Lake Beseck. Wow, and what a view I have from my upstairs loft window, too! But I'm concerned about how much longer these notions of "available and affordable" will last.
When I've attended meeting after meeting, from Planning and Zoning, to the Boards of Finance, and the Board of Selectmen, I've heard over and over again how the town doesn't want any more residential development. This is the major reason they cite for having bought Powder Ridge.
When I drill deeper I've found out that it’s because we can't afford to educate our kids. And just one look at the town's budget you see why, because over 80% of our property tax revenues go to the Region 13 school district.
The good news is that our taxes out here are lower than what I was paying in Wethersfield, granted my house was a lot bigger. But our mill rate is lower than most towns and I for one am intent on keeping it that way!
The trade offs are working their way through Board of Finance workshops over the next few weeks. As soon as the snow melts away and fills up the lake, expect a white water ride in town hall while they debate the budget!
[To find out more and become engaged in the economic future of your community, attend a meeting, volunteer, get informed, and stay involved. Meeting times can be found on www.middlefieldct.org.]