June 30, 2010

Tompkins Weekly on Varna development

Reporter Nick Babel was at last Monday's meeting about development in Varna. The resulting article gets to a lot of the points raised, though most of the details come out quoted to me, and not to the many people who were at the meeting. Hopefully I'm a decent representative of the meeting's sentiment. Based on the group I was facilitating, I may have been too moderate.

If you're reading this long after the article was published, I think you'll still be able to find it here (5.4MB PDF).

(These are my full answers to the questions Nick Babel asked.)

Question: One of the key questions presented at this meeting was, what do you want Varna's future to look like. What is your answer to this question?

I'd like to see Varna be a stable community where neighbors know each other and at least a core of residents help provide continuity. It'll be hard to avoid being a place where people drive through, given the location, of course. It would be great, though, to protect residents from the traffic better while also finding ways to encourage at least some of that traffic to stop and stay a while.

Question: Are you opposed to Mr. Lucente's Varna II proposal? Why or why not?

I'm very opposed to the current proposal. It's not about building a neighborhood - it's about cramming as many similar rectangles into the parcel shape as possible. It's a recipe for bland sameness that's hard to imagine working at the prices he's suggested charging.

Between that sameness and the retaining walls he's proposed to make it possible to build that densely on the terrain, I have a hard time imagining this project contributing anything to the community except traffic. Given that traffic is already a big problem in Varna, that's not a good thing.

Question: What kind of development would you like to see in Varna?

It's a fun question because, to be honest, Varna hasn't exactly been growing rapidly, and it's not clear that there are good reasons it should grow. It's sort of near Cornell, but it's not that near Cornell. It has water and sewer, but it also has significant terrain and traffic constraints.

There's certainly room for growth, but it seems likely go a lot more smoothly if that growth is in smaller chunks that actually fit with the existing neighborhood. That could be townhouses, though in smaller chunks, or it could be detached housing as well. Maintaining existing properties better would have a huge impact on the community too.

It also seems to me like there are unused opportunities for businesses that could both draw some commuter traffic and serve local residents. (A coffee shop on the north, incoming commuter, side of 366 makes sense to me, for instance.)

I don't think we're going to achieve a traffic-calmed pedestrian utopia any time soon, unless gas prices really climb - and then we'll have other problems. I definitely think there are ways to improve things over time, though.

Posted by simon at June 30, 2010 2:01 PM in , , ,
Note on photos