January 19, 2011

One plausible scenario for excessive development along 13

I've not had much luck, apparently, convincing the Town Board that the proposed "let's allow 10 units/acre in any commercial zone in Dryden with water and sewer and string those zones along 13" is a bad idea. My guess is that's they're counting on the cost of water and sewer improvements to keep the possible congestion along Route 13 to a minimum, but I'm not convinced that's wise.

How hard is it to imagine water and sewer extending along Route 13? Unfortunately, it's not very hard despite the distances and the costs. I usually confine my fictional visions of the local future to Upstate 2050, but here's one fictional but I think plausible scenario for those commercial zones coming to dense residential life within the next twenty years. (No, it's not a vision I want to see come to pass, but it's definitely within the realm of possibility.)


The economy finally recovered in 2013 and began growing again rapidly. Tompkins County did particularly well, thanks to successful nanotechnology projects developed at Cornell University - whose manufacturing stayed local because the research component remained central to their success.

The discovery of large quantities of natural gas in shale formations in the United States helped buffer increasing oil costs as the nation shifted from gasoline-based cars to electrically-based cars. While resistance to the natural gas extraction technologies - hydrofracking and its descendants - continued, the availability of gas and the lack of alternatives drove energy policy to be ever-friendlier to gas drillers.

Dryden's last legal defenses fell in 2016, overruled by a Department of Energy "Drilling Designation" much like its earlier "National Corridor Designation". Regulation of drilling was to be exclusively federal, with state and municipal regulation - even the aquifer protection that had served Dryden well - swept away.

Though exploration near Dryden Lake proved disappointing, an initial set of wells just south of Route 13 produced promising results in multiple layers. Drilling and production began on four parcels between the Village of Dryden and Yellow Barn Road and another to the north on Johnson Road.

To minimize exposure to the Town's road use laws, they bought parcels of land along Route 13 and Johnson Road to use as staging areas, creating "contractor's yards" that the Town approved as a minimization of long-term impact despite the appearance issues. Where possible, trucks rumbled over privately-owned connection corridors rather than crossing highways or taking roads, and a traffic light was installed at Route 13 and Johnson Roads to keep cars and trucks out of each other's way. A manned tower allowed direct management of the intersection, much like a railyard, and residents breathed a sigh of relief when traffic flow on Route 13 stayed smooth.

Problems began in early 2021, when the Yellow Barn Water System reported a variety of problems with its well water. The volume of available water declined, and new pollutants appeared in the water. As the privately-owned system was now supporting 156 houses, this quickly became a major political problem. Hydrofracking opponents pointed to recent drilling work off Ferguson Road, while the drilling companies suggested that a recent stronger-than-usual earthquake in the Adirondacks - 6.2 on the Richter scale - might have shifted underground geology.

Feeding the Yellow Barn Water System by truck kept it going for a year while negotiations between the Town, the Village of Dryden, the drilling companies, and the Department of Energy ground on. In mid-2022 the Town broke ground on the Yellow Barn water and sewer districts, connecting the area to the Village of Dryden using pipes along Route 13 through land largely owned by the drillers. The drilling companies paid one-third of the construction cost, as did the federal government. The gas companies had insisted on the sewer district, as it gave them a convenient outlet for their excess water, and allowed them to build convenient housing for their workers.

(The Town considered connecting the new water system to the Bolton Point-based systems further west, given concerns about Cayuga Lake water, but would have had to finance that itself.)

When drilling in the area concluded in 2025, the army of trucks dwindled, and the traffic tower was dismantled. 13dev, Inc., took over the real estate holdings of the drilling companies, and in 2026 applied for building permits to construct 800 townhouse units around the Yellow Barn / Route 13 / Johnson Road intersection. Citing the existing infrastructure, the commercial zoning, the demand for new housing because of Cornell's continuing expansion, and the existence of the traffic light, the Town granted the permits quickly.

In 2028, posters began appearing around Dryden displaying a map from the 1968 General Plan showing a Route 13 bypass. Route 13 between the Village of Dryden and Ringwood Road had become a traffic jam during rush hour and a safety hazard in its off-hours. New traffic lights at Irish Settlement and 13, Ringwood and 13, and along Ferguson Road weren't doing enough to smooth traffic flow. 60 years later, the Route 13 bypass suddenly looked like a great idea to a lot of people trying to get through Dryden.

In 2030, Etna, Freeville, Malloryville, and McLean residents geared up for a new battle, to fight the bypass proposed by the New York State Department of Transportation.

Plausible? I suspect yes, and worse, suspect that it might not take twenty years to get there.

Posted by simon at January 19, 2011 5:02 PM in , , ,
Note on photos