June 22, 2010

Varna discusses its future

Last night, around 40 residents of Varna (and the Dryden Town Supervisor) gave up a gorgeous evening and came together to discuss what the future of the hamlet might look like. The meeting was preparation for a July 7th meeting in which both the Varna vision and that of developer Stephen Lucente will be presented, but the organizers (including me, a breakout group moderator) tried to keep the focus on what should happen in Varna rather than what might happen in Varna.

Jim Skaley opened with a brief presentation on past planning efforts in Varna and the relatively minor demographic changes the hamlet's seen since 1990. A few small rental complexes have opened over the past two decades, but there hasn't been much change overall.

Jim Skaley talks about where Varna has been.
Jim Skaley talks about where Varna has been.

After that introduction, there was some open discussion of possible futures for Varna before the group broke into five smaller gatherings. It was clear that some development was desired - mention of a carryout restaurant in the works was received warmly, despite concerns about parking. During the breakout session, groups focused on five questions:

  • Cohesive Community - What is a neighborhood?

  • Commercial Center - Do you want to see one in Varna? Where?

  • Pedestrians / Bicycles / Trails - How do we better accomodate people who aren't in cars?

  • Traffic & Transit - How can we ensure traffic and transit patterns that will accomodate growth in Varna?

  • Growth: How Much? How Fast? What kind?

    • What would you think of adding 100 housing units over the next ten years?
    • What would you think of adding 200 housing units over the next ten years?

I had a difficult time keeping my group focused on defining our own future rather than responding to Lucente's vision, but we did eventually reach conclusions fairly similar to those of the other groups. Jan Morgan took much more detailed notes and will doubtless put this together more formally for the July 7th meeting, but common notes included:

  • Gradual organic development and change

  • Resident investment in the community

  • The need for gathering places

  • Food as a common theme in commercial interests

  • Genuinely slower traffic

  • Better places to walk - sidewalks, trails, crosswalks

  • More controlled traffic - possible lights

  • Buses important, especially in winter

  • Infrastructure concerns - water, sewer, stormwater, roads

  • Avoiding bland - aesthetically pleasing

That is fairly general, but that's also the nature of broad planning conversations. After we'd gathered these things, Skaley showed a slide on the more concrete 2005 Comprehensive Plan's suggestions for hamlets, which was very well received.

Next step: the larger meeting, July 7th at 7:00pm at the VCA. Here's an initial announcement for that:


At 7:00 - 9:00 p.m. on Wednesday July 7, 2010 a joint public meeting on development in the Hamlet of Varna will be held between the Varna Community Association (VCA) and the Town of Dryden Planning Board at the Varna Community Center at 943 Dryden Road.

The two hour meeting will be divided equally between presentation/discussion of the Varna Community's vision for development , and developer Stephen Lucente's Varna II housing/commercial development proposal.

We hope you will be able to attend.


Arthur L. Berkey, Chair
Varna Community Association, Inc.

(An earlier, less formal, meeting in April had drawn 20 people at 1:00pm on a Thursday. There's definitely energy for this conversation in Varna.)

Posted by simon at June 22, 2010 6:49 PM in , , ,
Note on photos