December 19, 2003

Draft Comprehensive Plan Informational Meeting

I made it to last night's informational meeting on the Town's Draft Comprehensive Plan, held at the Dryden Town Hall. (The hearing on annexation was at the Village Hall, at the same time, and there was a bit of confusion.) There were about 25 people at the start, and probably 35 people total were there at some point.

Barbara Caldwell explained the format, and then George Frantz gave a 45-minute presentation.

introducing the session
Barbara Caldwell introduces the session

Frantz's presentation was a brief description of the contents of the Draft Comprehensive Plan, noting the goals of the process, the current state of the town, and some of the things they hope to achieve as a result. The town is growing, but not that rapidly, so there's both a need to control growth and an opportunity to do so. Agriculture and open spaces were near the top of the priority list, and increasing the density of existing residential areas to make most efficient use of infrastructure fit nicely with that, as did plans for more parks and the use of cluster subdivisions.

The questions people had, though, made it fairly clear that achieving those goals is going to require a complicated balancing act. I didn't take names of the people asking, but questions included:

  • Where low-income multiunit housing would go, if Dryden was asked to provide for it.
  • How much of the water and sewer work would be new. (It would depend on demand.)
  • How the value of agriculture squares with putting "suburban residential" labels over an area to the west of Etna that currently includes farms.
  • How these guidelines would interact with tax laws, payments for development rights, etc.
  • Concerns about residential creep around Dryden Lake, and warnings that low-density housing there just produces mansions.
  • Whether the "main street" proposal for Varna is anything but a figment, given the DOT's focus on traffic. (This was mine; apparently the DOT would have to recognize the plan, and they've had some kind of "sea change", but I can't say I'm convinced.)
  • The existence of a housing shortage in Tompkins County right now, producing 14,000 commuters a day and steadily rising assessments.
  • How cell towers fit into the plan, and whether a moratorium on them would be a good idea.
  • Concerns about the "Route 13 overlay" area, which already has dangerous traffic and uncoordinated uses.
  • Concerns about whether preserving open space through things like the Nature Conservancy would drive taxes up by pulling land off the tax roles.

They collected all of the comments, and tried to answer many of them.

answering questions
Barbara Caldwell and George Frantz answer questions about the plan.

Some of the questions seem likely to require reconsideration of the plan, though a lot of them also interact with tax, zoning, and policy questions that are only likely to be addressable as the plan moves toward implementation. Some of the questions had serious emotional heat, especially around the Dryden Lake issues and farming. This quote, from someone whose farm is now labeled for suburban residential development, is pretty powerful:

"I can't just pick up my 25 acres and put it into one of your green spots... so you're saying my overall plan should be to screw the farm and the animals, and subdivide?"

I'll be very curious to see what the next draft of the plan looks like.

Posted by simon at December 19, 2003 12:49 PM in , , , , , , ,
Note on photos