Well they went ahead and did it: the New Hartford School District approved the scheme to send in-lieu-of-tax payments to New Hartford Town to build a road to serve a private development. The "lesson" for us observers is that when months of planning goes on behind closed doors, a project will have a momentum that is almost impossible to stop.
I won't bore you with the details of the questionable legality of the school district signing an agreement with a totally non-educational objective. Rather, I want you to think of why government involvement with the NH Business Park is bad public policy.
Government picking favorites . . .
It's hard enough for businesses to make a go of it in Upstate New York. If you were a business, how much worse would it be if the government took YOUR money and used it to prop up YOUR COMPETITORS? That is exactly what will happen if the Town/County/NHSD/OCIDA plan goes through. When local government gives tax breaks and picks up the costs of mitigating the impacts of the business park, the cost savings can be passed onto the park's occupants, whether a hotel or office buildings. These businesses, then, are given a taxpayer-subsidized competitive advantage over other similar businesses in the same market -- ones who have been corporate residents and contributing to the local economy for years -- making it more difficult for them to make a buck. Is it any wonder that long time businesses just close or up and leave in disgust?
Sprawl without growth . . .
Encouraging development of undeveloped land extends the public infrastructure and need for services over a greater area. The road extension is obvious. Water and sewer extensions are being considered. Extension of police and fire protection will follow. These extensions guarantee an increase in public expenses - FOREVER. Who will pay?
The idea of "build it, and they will come" has been disproved by years of recent history. In fact, the opposite has occurred: with more building, people continue to leave. This has been well documented by Rolf Pendall in his work "Sprawl Without Growth: The Upstate Paradox." Utica/Rome/Syracuse between 1982 and 1997 increased its urbanized acreage by 45% (100,000 acres) while its population decreased, resulting in a drop in population density from 5.17 to 3.54 per urbanized acre. Now think of what has happened since 1997! With the increase in developed acreage in the face of declining population, is it any wonder why the taxes collected never seem to be enough to meet our needs? And with the taxes to support all this development going up, is it any wonder why people continue to leave, driving density further down, and driving taxes even higher. The feed-back loop is killing us . . . and expansion of development like the NH Business Park is only going to be more counter productive.
Environmental degradation and economic segregation . . .
Agricultural lands and open spaces are converted to parking lots and new buildings, leading to abandonment or underutilization of buildings elsewhere. Economic activity becomes concentrated in wealthy areas, while poorer areas languish, making it increasingly difficult for the poor to work their way out of poverty, leading to a drag on the entire economy.
The negatives of this project seem to outweigh the positives. Unfair treatment will cause businesses to leave. Extensions of infrastructure will drive up taxes causing more to leave. The quality of our region's living and social environment will deteriorate, giving those of us who love the area less reason to stay.
Still think this is a good idea?