The foundations of a viable plan
By JAY EPSTEIN
We are blessed in this area to have some enormous natural resources: the river, the mountains, the lakes, the forested lands and the people who live here. Each has a specific function in making it all happen.
Ask yourself why people want to come and live here, and the answer is the beauty of the area and the inner peace that comes with being here. In order to avoid turning the area into a strip mall, with development uncontrolled, and the wasting of the prime asset that brought people here yesterday and today, we need something that will keep the dream alive for those to come in future generations.
That does not mean zero growth. We simply cannot block development entirely just because it offends the status quo. To have a strong and vibrant community, you must have growth. Change is good, as running water is necessary for a stream, to keep from becoming stagnant. The same is true for development and positive thinking.
But if we are not to waste our prime asset, we must take care to plan for and guide that growth.
One way to develop such guidance is to get professional help from qualified planners who really understand this area, to assist us in coming up with a game plan for development. But very careful groundwork must be laid before hiring any organization that will have long-reaching effects today and later. Otherwise, we may find ourselves having master plans imposed on us by people who dont even live here, and may not have had much success in their efforts elsewhere.
To that end, the planners seeking employment by the county and townships should have a proven track record. Providing a list of what they did before and where they did it is not sufficient. The prospective employer should actually go to the areas for which the planners have worked before, to judge whether they like what was done, what they would change if they could, and how the planned development actually looks on the ground, up front and personal. There are too many experts who have certifications, and whose ideas look good on paper, but when actually executed are something that no oneexcept the planneris satisfied with.
Whatever expert help is chosen, there are certain essentials that ought to be included in any plan. The planning should not only allow for, but give incentives to builders to construct affordable housing for young people who want to stay here as well as senior citizensor, indeed, any of the lower-income groups that are being pressured out of the housing market by the influx of wealthier buyers from metropolitan areas.
But guidelines should also be established so that any development is not wasteful of land and the natural resources with which our open land is now endowed. Natural habitat is difficult, if not impossible, to create, and it takes a long time to grow trees. The deer, bears, eagles and other wildlife depend on such land to survive, eat and grow, and that is their supermarket. Without them, the area becomes sterile.
The guidelines should also consider the importance of commerce, preserving our farms and agricultural base but also encouraging industries like think tanks and home-office industries that could thrive here without damaging the environment. For just one example: how about hooking up the Narrowsburg school building with a college or univesity?
But most important with regard to all these planning issues is that public input is required. Even if we can find good planners to advise us, even if we can find planners who actually live and work here themselves, we cannot and should not sit back and let some one person or organization determine the shape of a master plan that will determine the future for all of us. Its our land; it should be our plan.
(Jay Epstein is a lawyer specializing in real estate, who lives and has a practice in Jeffersonville, NY.)