Raising the standards in the river valley
By JEFFREY MOORE
The idea of various diversified people coming together to form a vision for their future and then proceeding to implement the plan is not a new idea. It is as old as the oldest nation and as ancient as the rule of law. The challenge we face and therefore the responsibility we have is to collectively come up with a visionary plan for our precious river corridor.
Much has been said already on this important and timely problem. Much is being done by the areas county planning departments and a variety of studies, special task forces and groups formed by citizens. In New York, the home rule keeps the decisions localized. Yet the river corridor and the special amazing pristine environment through which the river flows has not yet translated into the river towns and townships seeing their commonality of purpose. The River Management Plan certainly speaks to the water quality and issues related to water flows, etc., but little has prepared the uplands from being treated differently from anywhere else.
I would have thought that home rule and local zoning would be far more protective of this special place. However, the local zoning is rather typical of less rural areas. The river corridor is not the same as the Liberty, Monticello, Fallsburg region, as an example. The river corridor towns would be surprised to see how their existing zoning will look when it is built out in a few years.
We need to urgently implement in our regulations and codes to allow for methods that will preserve our most valuable resources. Rather than mere standard lot size zoning, it should be replaced by conservation zoning. Let us wisely channel funds into conservation easements and establish an overlay along the river corridor to protect it. Let those who want to profit from our heritage come up to our higher standards. There is no reason for us not to raise the bar. Let us not degrade our heritage in the river corridor.
Areas outside the corridor have their own agenda huge suburban-style increases in population. For some people that is their ultimate vision. Cookie- cutter developments spreading out over the fields and clear cuts in the forest. We can do better here.
The true costs of suburbanization are mind-boggling. The costs are well known to rise rapidly. The new, large, incoming population requires new schools, larger fire departments, new town halls and lots of costly services. Budgets rise and taxes rise.
We need to encourage many types of specialty agriculture. Our farms have been the backbone of our heritage in the river valley and we pressure them at our own peril. They keep our fields open and the forests intact. They demand little.
We have choices. We should not succumb to nearly every subdivider and developer who comes to town. We should demand much more of them and thereby from ourselves.
[Jeffrey Moore is a resident of the Town of Fremont and a member of the board of the Delaware Highland Conservancy.]