I attended the third and final meeting of the “Visions” Project for the Town & Village of Oxford on Tuesday night. I had missed the first two sessions and so the ‘goals’ of the village and town had already been established. Here is what I found:
Some ideas were proposed to widen sidewalks, hide parking areas and move buildings closer to a narrower Rt. 12 to create a continuous storefront for leisurely window shopping. I am not sure that 9 months out of the year I could be persuaded to window shop leisurely! These proposals, it was admitted, involved both public and private property. The same people who fear eminent domain when it comes to a gas drill passing a mile below the surface of their property, had no problem whatsoever with the thought of confiscating someone else’s private property, relocating proven viable existing businesses in the hopes of encouraging business growth (!?), and condemning both land & improvements to fit their myopic vision.
Amazingly enough, under the category of ‘natural resources’ natural gas was not listed! (The Chenango County Economic Development Plan includes gas development.) I found it later, filed under ‘concerns.’ That should give you a pretty clear idea of who created the ‘vision,’ including some well known anti gas agitators from out of town. Gas development would cure most of the ‘concerns’ listed by the group: the rail line might be brought back to specs to bring in sand and pipe as has been the case from Michigan to PA., upgraded and utilized by free enterprise, not requiring a redistribution of the wealth! Gas development would cure lack of employment, vacant buildings, subdivision of rural properties for development ...
Having been involved in land use policy all of my life, I can assure you that land once subdivided for residential development and strip malls never reverts to agricultural or forest land. The footprint of gas development is temporary by comparison. The rigs and lights are gone within a month, like drilling a water well. The pads every mile or so look no different than tanks appurtenant to farm operations, and the land is reclaimed at the end of production. Well drilling does not create an ‘industrialized landscape,’ but rather it is more like a major home remodel: inconvenient for awhile but well worth it in the long run.
The plan proposed boating at a recreational riverfront park and walking/biking trails - downwind from the sewer treatment plant! They talked of creating wetlands to ameliorate flooding as if they had never noticed the flocks of geese downstream in the corn stubble! So, they would take that land out of corn production for their ethanol? I remember not too long ago when a kayak was paddling north in the middle of Rt. 12 – precisely where they would invest revitalization dollars!
They proposed a farmer’s cooperative be built south of town where there used to be [re: failed] greenhouses. How well attended is the current farmer’s market?
If this plan ever develops, they would need to move/hide/eliminate Blue Ox’s propane storage lot next door as it certainly conveys the wrong message, not “Welcome to Munchkinland.” Other businesses not in alignment with the plan include the recently painted & paved car dealership, the hardware store, NBT & the Mirabitos store ... and that is just in the downtown area! The ‘plan’ extends all the way from Brisben to Norwich!
The collective vision for the future includes such things as a mentoring program between the farmers and the youth. Don’t we have 4H & FFA?
You may not have noticed, but graduation was two months ago - the youth have already left the building.
According to the plan, the goal is to slow traffic in the village - perhaps they have not noticed the speed limit signs, as it was stated that there was no way of knowing you were approaching the village business district. Heck, getting stuck in a line of tanker trucks going to a gas well might slow the downtown traffic! Or maybe we need to get our unemployed out there washing windshields and selling roses at the traffic light! In my assessment, most people in attendance are not the ‘worker bees’ they are the ‘drones.’
It was proposed to “investigate approaches for conservation of agricultural land.” Take it out of production? Cede control of it to some ‘conservancy’?
It was proposed to develop a plan and a set of illustrated guidelines for new & renovated buildings and signage. We can’t even afford to paint our houses the same color on all 4 sides and we’re going to dictate to private property and business owners how their property must look in order to conform to someone’s distorted ‘vision’? It was suggested new construction not be allowed in the open, but hidden amongst trees - suggesting ‘micro-zoning’ of our deeded rights to develop our land as we see fit.
New sidewalks and lighting were proposed, at the same time enlarging LaFayette Park was recommended. The cost of these “improvements” would be covered miraculously by “GRANT MONEY”! I remind you, the government cannot give anything to anyone that it hasn’t already taken from someone else!
My father graduated from Penn State with a degree in landscape architecture and worked in that field as a planner for municipalities for 30-plus years. I understand the value of planned development. The goal setting aim of the “Visions” program is admirable. At the invitation of Town & Village officials, the meetings were facilitated by Syracuse University landscape architecture department, and I am sure it was a valuable exercise for the students who presented to the group. They did use input from the public, but that is where they missed the mark.
The problem with this ‘Vision’ as outlined is that a total of 64 people showed up at the 3 meetings combined. The population of the Town of Oxford is 3,901 per the 2010 census. So, 1.5% of the residents are suffering from mass hallucinations, and their ‘goals’ are now to be incorporated into the plan for the future of our community? Hardly a mandate from the people!
One village board member was troubled by the 1.5% number and stated, “I see your point, yes, we need to get the rest of the people involved!”
To which I can only reply: “No, you do not see my point! By their absence, 98.5% of the people prefer things as they are and advocate for a ‘laissez faire’ approach.”
The visions of the minority are of no consequence whatsoever by comparison.