May 12, 2007

Three experiences with plans

Since I started paying attention in Dryden, I've had the chance to participate (as an interested and sometimes cranky citizen) on three different planning-related projects:

The Comprehensive Plan took forever to get done, and isn't a perfect document, but I have to give its creators tremendous credit. They knew the place, both the terrain and the people, and held session after session of open meetings (Planning Board meetings, information sessions, and finally the Town Board process) where the public was welcome. The public didn't all show up of course, but it seems very clear that public input had a direct impact on that plan.

I was a bit nervous about the Cornell T-GEIS. Cornell isn't exactly a gentle giant, and any time they propose expansion I look around to see what the impact might be. The first public meeting left me a little worried. The planners seemed interested in listening, but they didn't seem to know a whole lot about the area they were working on. The second meeting, however, showed that they actually were listening and ready to learn. They took concerns about transportation and proposed possibilities that reflected those transportation questions. Although it's a Cornell and Town of Ithaca project (with Dryden participating), they did a thorough job of evaluating Varna's problems with transportation and made substantial suggestions for addressing them. Not quite everything I'd like, but wow! It was clear they were serious about the roads and their impact.

The last study, the Route 13/366 Corridor Study, was the one for which I had the least concerns and the most hopes. Unfortunately, the initial public session spent a lot of time determining that people prefer looking at farm fields and lawns to looking at asphalt, and then had a small amount of time for more detailed comments on the survey area. Those comments (571.5MB PDF) had a lot of good detailed information about the road, but when I showed up at the second public information meeting (and likely the last one) there was very little to see about the road, and an awful lot of land use description done around it.

The comments from the first session seemed to vanish into an effort to rewrite the Town Comprehensive Plan's approach to Route 13 with something very different. Rather than strengthening downtown Varna, a node now entering its third century of existence, they marched east to plant a new node east of NYSEG. Around Varna, they scattered development on the hillsides, avoiding even the question of whether using some of Cornell's land could strengthen the existing Varna node. (I'll write more about this soon.) They concentrated as much development in the Village of Dryden as they could, to a degree that seems to make Village residents (that I've heard from, anyway) gasp.

There wasn't a whole lot about the road itself, except for some new infrastructure to support the new node, a divider in the 13/366 overlap, and some traffic circles that seem likely to create even more danger than presently exists. Transportation? Why talk about transportation?

None of these plans are perfect, but the first two felt, well, more honest. Their creators seem to be listening, and both plans deliver something much like what their title promises. The last one, though, seems to be off in its own strange place, creating new suburbs while not doing much to preserve or fix what we already have.

Posted by simon at May 12, 2007 9:42 AM in
Note on photos