Monday, November 21, 2011

county wide development plan and the chatham price chopper

It looks like the new Price Chopper on 66 in Ghent is a done deal. It's a bad deal.

Instead of turning 66 into yet another American sprawl strips, just like all the others, that which makes Chatham special should have been nurtured and encouraged. This project is bad for Chatham, bad for the environment, bad for the entire county local economy.

While I think the planning board in Ghent should have said no, I understand why they said yes. I wish Price Chopper had a different plan but I understand why they did what they did.

I don't see a specific villan operating unethically or with nefarious motives.

Chatham was or still is to an extent the one place in Columbia County (or further) where someone who can't drive (blind, epileptic, under 16, etc.) can go for many days or even weeks without need assistance to get supplies. People who don't live in the village can park once, then go out to eat, pick up a few things in the store, not just tourist stuff but maybe shoes or a book or some health food at the Grainery or the food coop or go to the library, maybe play pool at the Morris Memorial community center, have lunch aat a restaurant, pick up some bread at the bakery, then get back into your car and drive home. If you live in the village you could do all this on a bike or by walking.

There is also a huge amount of space sitting unused in the grain elevator area behind Blue Seal.

If there were a supermarket in this space, walking distance to the main street, it would be a boon for the village. It would preserve the critical mass in the main street, since you could do every thing in one place, people will want to visit, and of course live near, the center of town for many different reasons.

That didn't happen. The space in the village is still just sitting there and Price Chopper is going to pave over open space and create sprawl instead.

Bad outcome. Not Ghent's fault. No Price Chopper's fault. But bad.

Here is what I think we need: A county-wide plan, endorsed by the state legislature, to do the following: 1) share the vast majority of sales tax revenue between all jurisdictions; 2) declare that agro-tourism is the main industry in the county; 3) agree that walkable, thriving village, town and city centers are important; 4) set up a county wide bike path and hiking trail plan; 5) note that light industry and green development that helps preserve open space is compatible with agro-tourism but that sprawl and heavy industry are not compatible.

Farms, yes, second home ownership, yes, open space, yes, trails and bike paths, yes, walkable villages, yes, old buildings, yes, heavy industry, no, sprawl, no.

That's a pretty simple winning plan for prosperity and aesthetic beauty, which in our case are the same thing. 

Who's in and when do we meet?

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