May 25, 2012

Discussing the Varna Master Plan

The Town of Dryden Planning Department returned to the Varna Community Center Wednesday with an update on the proposed master plan for the hamlet. Unlike last November's event, which was loosely structured and focused on what different parts of the hamlet might look like eventually, this was more of a formal talk detailing the process so far and the proposed results.

The simplest - useful, but probably too simple - way to look at it is by comparing the existing conditions map to the proposed map:

Existing conditions, with potential (re)development areas marked
Existing conditions in Varna, with potential (re)development areas marked.

Proposed long-term buildout of (re)development areas
Proposed long-term buildout of (re)development areas.

Consistent with their November presentation, they showed a dramatic proposed increase in density for the hamlet overall, though (I hope) perhaps a manageable one.

The Town isn't, of course, planning to build this themselves - these are possibilities that zoning would allow. The Town examined existing development, traffic, infrastructure, and community issues, and assembled a broad plan that includes zoning language and design guidelines.

Discussion seemed dominated by developer Steve Lucente, who seemed surprised that the Town's approach wasn't exactly like his approach. "Who do you see living there?" was his opening question. It's not a bad question, but it's not really up to the Town to specify demographics like income levels and likely employment for people who live in an area. Town Supervisor Mary Ann Sumner pointed out that it would be seen as controversial "social engineering" if the Town went beyond the traditional municipal considerations of infrastructure and land use.

Discussing the plan
Discussing the plan.

There were a lot of other, I think more fruitful, conversations. A resident of Hillside Acres was concerned about what development on the edge of the park along Route 366 might mean for current residents of that area, and Chip Ray suggested both that he could include them in his plans and that the state regulations on mobile home parks require him to consider their future.

Jim Skaley suggested that working on changes to the road and near the road, like sidewalks, could make an immediate impact, and also pointed out that the Ithaca School District's decision a few years ago to send children from the area to Caroline Elementary School doesn't exactly encourage families to live here.

Jan Morgan asked about crosswalks in particular, something Varna clearly needs, and Planner Jane Nicholson said that they were in the plan but not in her talk.

Erica Evans worried about the traffic impact. Dan Kwasnowski said it was an important part of their study, and that he hoped to create a slightly slower flow on Route 366 and better flow from Freese and Mount Pleasant Roads. A roundabout there sounded possible, but a traffic light was unlikely.

There are a few properties near the corner of Freese and 366 that are in foreclosure, and it sounded like that might be a place where change happens quickly. We'll see. I've always liked "the blue house" on the corner, but suspect it won't be around forever.

I've also posted a gallery of pictures, which is mostly the slides. I suspect the Town will post a much clearer version of those eventually.

Posted by simon at May 25, 2012 5:04 PM in , ,
Note on photos