November 11, 2010

Why is the proposed Commercial zone a cancer?

I used some fairly harsh words about the proposed Commercial zone last night - 'wretched' and 'cancerous' being the ones I most remember. Why would I have such a problem with a zone we obviously need?

The basic question, I think, is simple: does it make sense to combine two major traffic generators along a series of key arterial roads? My answer is no, but there's a lot more to it.

Commercial zones thrive on traffic, as businesses want to be in places where there's lots of traffic. I wrote earlier that "business comes from the road" here, and I still think that's true. Retail businesses want to be where they can be seen, which is mostly along 13 and 366. They generate traffic, but also benefit from existing traffic.

Residential zones generally prefer to hide from traffic. High traffic volumes are intimidating and disruptive, but residential zones also generate substantial traffic. In particular, they generate traffic at the times when roads are busiest, the commuter rush hours. Yes, shared driveways, minimized curb cuts, and pushing access to side roads can reduce the number of intersection points, but those points have much higher intensity and may require extra lanes and traffic lights to function safely.

The proposed "Commercial" zone combines commercial uses with the densest allowed residential development in the town. While it's sort of a "mixed use" zone, it does nothing to specify mixed uses of the kind where commercial and residential development support and reinforce each other.

This won't help the Town's primary transportation corridors flow smoothly, and it pushes what higher density development we build along the roadside, which just isn't a fun place to live.

There's a lot more to this - interactions with water and sewer infrastructure, incompatible uses, setbacks, farm protection, design guidelines, public transportation, and the ways "mixed use" can actually work - but this is the core of why I think this is an extremely bad idea.

Posted by simon at November 11, 2010 9:04 PM in
Note on photos