Sunday, April 26, 2009

The Few, and the Rich . . .

... At least that is what the end result will be if current trends continue, based on today's OD article "Fewer people, pricier homes in N. Hartford."

“We’ve got to make room in our community for people in the moderate income range,” Planning Board Chairman Jerome Donovan said. . . .

Donovan said he’s hoping the report will foster new zoning laws and other policies that allow for some smaller, less expensive building lots, and even provide for more mixed-use areas with apartments and storefronts.

Smaller lots? Mixed-use areas with apartments and storefronts? That's starting to sound like . . . Utica(!) . . . or the Village of New Hartford . . . or the Village of New York Mills . . . ALL of which are seeing population loss with vacancies in their smaller-lot, mixed-use neighborhoods.

Rolf Pendall of Cornell University, who specializes in regional planning, said it is possible for governments to foster diversity through zoning laws.

Smaller building lots and more areas designated for duplexes or apartments could help, he said.

“It will help build a stronger region,” he said, pointing to New Hartford’s good schools. New Hartford routinely shows up on lists of the nation’s top schools.

Allowing students of different types of backgrounds to receive such a quality education would be a plus for everyone, Pendall said.

It's nice to see the OD finally talking to Mr. Pendall . . . But the OD editors and reporters need to read and digest his paper "Sprawl Without Growth: The Upstate Paradox" to fully comprehend our local situation.

Our dwindling regional population is still sprawling, raising the cost of government. Trying to intentionally create more affordable housing or diversity in New Hartford by manipulating the zoning ordinances will not stop sprawl. New Hartford leaders still confuse sprawl with growth because they can only deal with what is within the boundaries of their Town.

Our organization of municipal governments has contributed to sprawl. They are simply too small in an age were almost everyone has an automobile. When the wealthy move to New Hartford to get their larger lots, they take their taxes with them, leaving the municipality left behind (whether Utica or one of the Villages) poorer, and less able to support its infrastructure. Meanwhile, Town of New Hartford taxpayers must build and support new infrastructure for the new developments.

Taxpayers on both ends of the move lose.

If both ends of the move were within the same municipality, then more taxes would be available to clear, prepare, and make attractive some of the older, left-behind areas for new uses (such as business parks, retail centers, fancy condos, or middle class housing). That would reduce pressure to build in the suburbs in orchards and on farm land, reuse precious public infrastructure, reduce sprawl, and arrange our population and activities in a manner where services could be delivered more efficiently and at a lower cost -- producing lower taxes. Lower taxes, in turn, might attract people into the region, or allow more of our children to stay, producing some real growth.

People rightly fear big government, believing that smaller jurisdictions give them more control over their well-being. But there is such a thing as being too small.

People in Utica and New Hartford need to have a voice in what goes on on both sides of their municipal boundary to effectively deal with sprawl, crime, pollution, storm water, and a myriad of other issues.

The public should ask itself: Why does that municipal boundary continue to exist?

Think about the answer to that question long enough, and we might learn some things about ourselves that we would not want to admit.


Anonymous said...

The New Hartford housing bubble will burst within then next ten years. Much of the "big" house market is medically based. The elderly population is dying off and is not being replaced in similiar numbers given demographic changes. The question is not sprawl or no sprawl, it's the implications of population decline.But, that still arrives at the conclussion that governmental consolidation is the only rational path. Any bets as to whether or not it will happen before it is too late?

Anonymous said...

No way - No elected official has the balls to really push for consolidation. There needs to be a collapse of the system in order to create the change we need.

Anonymous said...

A collapse, you say? Please, don't tempt us like that.