Thursday, March 15, 2012

Regional Obligations in New Hartford . . .

Last night the New Hartford Town board considered zoning changes to the New Hartford Business Park (NHBP) to permit small businesses, retail, offices, and restaurants. The members of the public in attendance were overwhelming opposed to the changes. 

While this blogger is disappointed that the Town Board voted to allow mixed development along Seneca Turnpike (Rt. 5) (the last thing NH needs is more congestion in that area) , the board wisely tabled changing the zoning of the bulk of the project area. 

Ultimately, the Board needs to reject this zoning change.

New Hartford owes its attractiveness for development to a regional infrastructure that has been paid for mostly by people residing outside the Town.  It has a public water system.  It has a sewage collection and treatment system.  It has a system of state and county highways.  New Hartford could never have afforded these on its own -- and town development would never have occurred without them.

Since New Hartford's "success"  is largely the product of a regional effort, it is only fitting that the Town uses its regional assets for the regional good.  Back in 1999, Town leaders tried to do just that when establishing the NHBP zone.

When the Final Environmental Impact Statement for the NHBP zone was issued in 1999, the zone was promoted as a site for industrial use, for "new high-technology industries" intended to "meet the economic needs of the entire region . . ."
It was recognized that the region had a shortage of high quality industrial sites that were large enough to meet the requirements of modern industries. The entire region supported New Hartford's efforts because the lack of such sites was a hindrance to the region moving forward economically.

What has happened to NHBP since could kindly be described as a "drift" from its original purpose.   (Unkindly, some may describe it as a "bait and switch.")  Offices seemed to become the primary use rather than ancillary as intended.  Then a hotel . . . and now the current proposal. 

While ridiculous state and national policies have put a damper on industrial development, it is not going to last forever.  Leaders will eventually realize that the public still needs "things,"   that the "things"  need to be made somewhere, and that an inability to make certain "things"  here poses a national security risk.  Will this region be ready?

The region, which has given so much to New Hartford,  cannot afford to lose NHBP as an industrial development site. New Hartford  needs to return to its original vision . . . for everyone's benefit.


Anonymous said...

Strike, remember when the "unfortunate" people who own Twin Orchards were complaining and suing because they would lose some valuable family orchards in this deal? I was curious to know if this allows them to now sell some of the same orchards for retail space, aka Sams Club? We only heard brief mention of this request in the OD and then it disappeared from the news.

Keith said...

On the other hand, thirteen years spent with essentially zero results might indicate that "stay the course" is not a viable plan. Granted, during that time the bulk of our regional governmental economic development efforts have gone to Griffis with a few crumbs left over for the former airport area.

Anonymous said...

Keith's point is an excellent one. It did not take a genius to figure out that there was more than enough space at the massive Griffiss site to overwhelm any market demand for industrial sites here. It was foolish from cost/benefit point of view for the New Hartford site to be developed in the first place. There was no need for another business park. The 13 years Keith notes proved that. The only original use goal developed was the Hartford project which was already in New Hartford. No gain at all and that project could have easily been developed elsewhere in the area. New Hartford making a bad decision in the past now means it must change focus to develop anything, or simply leave the land vacant. So, we'll get commercial which is yet another form of checkerboarding with little to no net gain for the town or area. All of this is a result of no rational planning by EDGE, the county and the town.