People in Dryden frequently complain when you threaten to put a trail across their property. I was happy tonight to see that the Route 13/366 Corridor Study plan shows a new trail going across my lot, something I'd never have thought would happen. There's even a nice connecting trail (a boardwalk?) through the Cornell Plantations swamp across the road to reach the railroad bed that should someday be a trail.
People in Dryden also tend to complain when they see a map that suggests a road going through their house. I'm not thrilled about that, but I'm deeply confused when my property is highlighted as a connection between residential housing on the steep slope behind my house and Route 366. They didn't notice, say, on the Town of Dryden Comprehensive Plan's map called "Natural Constraints to Development", that it's really steep back there? Slopes of greater than 15%? And for a long distance? This seems really unlikely to happen.
It's hard to know where to begin to discuss what's wrong with this plan. It starts with good intentions of nodal development, but then scatters housing on hillsides, puts more housing near (not quite in, if I'm reading the map right) swamps, and builds a new node on the 13/366 overlap east of where the existing node already is. There's almost nothing shown on these maps about building on to the existing Varna node, and the planners' talk of dense development on empty parcels doesn't exactly increase my confidence. Although they were happy enough to mark other open-seeming parcels for development, they left alone the Cornell research field at the corner of 366 and Game Farm, even though I suspect it better fit their criteria - and is better connected to an existing node - than the random hillsides they highlighted. (The same is true of other Cornell fields around Varna.)
I don't know enough about the Village of Dryden to comment on their markups for that, though I know that the Village was at one point planning major expansion in its northeast corner and abandoned it largely because of wetlands issues. Maybe those issues have faded enough to put a connector road through from Lee Road to 392, but it still seems like a stretch to me. There may well be more room in the southwest for housing.
There may be discussion in the actual written plan - which wasn't distributed at the meeting - discussing ways to expand existing nodes in 'downtown' Varna and at the corner of Routes 13 and 366, but what the maps seem to show is the creation of a new industrial / commercial / residential zone along the Route 13/366 overlap. I'm not entirely sure what they think is the allure of that spot - while the existing node is largely in the new Empire Zone, the area to the east is pretty empty, with some roadside development, but the Comprehensive Plan pretty deliberately left a corridor of open space in there as a break along Route 13.
I have a hard time imagining who will want to be the pioneer businesses and home builders in that area. Yes, it's near a water district - Vanguard Press (formerly Wilcox Press) has water, but the Pinckney Road water and sewer district still hasn't taken off, and making this expanded node work will mean creating a large new area in a place that isn't yet served by water. Even if the Pinckney Road districts come to pass, the commercial development will likely stay further west, as that area isn't completely filled in.
Then there's the looming question of the looming NYSEG building, a fortress built with its own cafeteria, water, and sewer systems, surrounded by a moat of parking lots and fences. All I heard was hope that it would somehow revive - after all, NYSEG's looking for tenants - and provide extra energy for this new eventual node.
I wasn't entirely enthusiastic after the initial public meeting, but it's especially strange to see how little connection I saw between that meeting's conversation and the resulting plan. I'm sure it all fit in somehow - or did it?
The Town of Dryden Comprehensive Plan was a huge pain to create, but it was very clear that the people creating it understood the terrain, the history, and the people affected by their plan. This Corridor Plan demonstrates no such understanding. While its drive for more housing is admirable, its path to get there is broken, broken enough that I have to question the competence of the creators of this plan. They apparently didn't see steep slopes or find out why certain places haven't been developed. They seem to think that zoning in a new node will create it, despite mixed results for development near that area.
I hate to say this, but I strongly recommend that the county and the planners scrap this plan. They can try again if they want (and I'd like them to), but this plan is broken, too broken to provide useful guidance for future development along the oldest corridor in Dryden. Building a better plan requires examining how new development meshes with old development, not just looking for places to drop more buildings.
(I would, however, love to see that bit of trail happen, and I'm happy to talk with planners about it.)
If you'd prefer to make up your own mind, I've posted a gallery of the maps and some other photos. I've made the full-size images larger than usual so there's a better chance of capturing detail. And definitely, please comment.Posted by simon at April 25, 2007 10:31 PM in Route 13/366 , Village of Dryden , nodal development , planning and zoning , roads, traffic, and transit