Developing a plan takes study
By ROBERT BURROW
Growth is defined, generally, as an expansion or enlargement of an entity such as an organism. Growth can be applied to a community in terms of future expansion in physical and fiscal issues. Growth is a fact of nature in the body of the organism and the body of the community. Unlike an organism, growth in a community that is not carefully planned can become the communitys biggest problem.
We have all seen the result of poorly planned growth. As the population expands and the open areas and low real-estate prices associated with suburban areas become more desirable, developers will provide homes and the associated amenities to people whether or not these new developments are planned. The small farmer finds he cannot compete with the large agribusinesses and, because of the rise in property values, he can no longer afford his property taxes. Along comes the developer offering the farmer a very attractive price for his land and, in a short while, houses appear, like mushrooms popping up, sprawling across the land. The beautiful, open vista is not the only sacrifice to this kind of growth. Infrastructure and natural resources are stressed to the point where the same reasons people moved out of one area in the first place become the reasons to move again.
Developing a plan to address a growing and expanding community is, naturally, a major responsibility of local government. Local government includes the town board, board of education and all other local community groups. The entire community population must be involved for it is they who are directly affected. However, it is the local government organizations that must provide the leadership in producing an effective plan for future growth.
How can a community develop a plan that will provide for constructive growth? It is not impossible, though the process must be extensive. All factors of a community must be considered and prioritized. Commercial and residential interests are not necessarily opposing factors. Scenic areas and natural structures such as waterways, ridgelines and forests are all important considerations to be included in the plan.
However, before a plan for addressing growth can be completed it is important to understand what kind of growth is occurring or is expected to occur. Data of the demographic of new residents must be collected. Is there a growing population in the schools? If not, and there is expansion in the real-estate market, are these new sales to retirees, single people or second homes? We have not seen a growth in the school population in Eldred. What about other neighboring school districts? What are the attractions of the community that should be preserved? Are the existing commercial zones adequate to serve the expanding community? Answers to these questions are available and we must incorporate this data into our plan.
Without a crystal ball, the community faces a daunting task in its effort to develop a plan that will provide for efficient growth. We are inspired by the poor efforts of the past and realize that we cannot squander time as we face a booming real-estate market. Growth is here and most people realize this. Various visioning symposia have been and will be important to keep us focused on the need for proper planning. Our job now is to collect relevant data, and, with our sights set on what we wish to preserve and what we want to see expanded, make sure the town board, planning board, zoning board, the board of education and the other community organizations are together in this effort.
[Robert Burrow is currently a Town of Highland Councilman, vice president of the Eldred Central School Board and president of Highland Renaissance. He is a retired teacher who has lived in the area for over 35 years.]
This editorial is reprinted from The River Reporter, an award-winning news source
for the Upper Delaware.