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.