Thursday, November 09, 2006

Community Involvement

Husband is out tonight at a town meeting to listen to discussions about waterfront development.

We're really not what you would call "active" in our community. We don't get the local paper (don't get me STARTED on the local paper! I actually bitch out their telemarketers when they call me for subscriptions by telling them that when the newspaper hires writers with a decent command of English, I MIGHT consider a subscription. Until then, they're getting NONE of my money). Though I do research the local political races - to the extent that I can do so without buying a local paper, that is - and I vote in local elections, I don't go to town meetings or watch public access t.v. during school board or planning board assemblies. The MOST I've ever done is gone to a planning board meeting to plead my case for a crosswalk by the girls' elementary school.

There's been a ridiculous amount of development in our little town over the past five or so years. Ridiculous. More houses than we need - a good many of them stand empty with "for sale" signs in front. Far more traffic than our little streets can handle. The schools are starting to get a little tight. We've watched with mingled confusion and anger as development after development gets approved and begun with seemingly little concern for the FEEL of our town.

Understand that I'm NOT like my husband's late grandmother. She moved to Florida and then proclaimed that the borders should be closed - no new residents, we're full, thank you, go somewhere else. I don't feel that way at all - I welcome new people, I LOVE diversity. I'm just concerned that the people in charge of our city aren't really THINKING before they're giving the green light to developers.

Case in point? The city is proposing a HUGE, GINORMOUS, MAJOR overhaul of the "waterfront" district of downtown. It's a river. A small-ish river that becomes unnavigable about 40 yards into town. A river that serves NO commercial enterprises, no real sport traffic and is really little more than an outlet to the Atlantic. The city, though? They want to turn it into THE hotspot of our little village. SHOPS! BOAT SLIPS! RESTAURANTS! CONDOS!

What I want to know - and what I'm hoping Husband will come back to tell me - is WHY? Sure, the developers are seeing dollar signs and I'm sure that the city is seeing them, too. Tax revenue! Permit fees! Really, though? I'm afraid that all this work is going to go for naught. There is, as far as I can tell, NO demand from the town to revamp the area. No one is clamoring for a waterfront condo. No one thinks we need new restaurants. There are plenty of empty storefronts on Main Street, so the demand for retail space isn't what's driving the push for beautification.

And I'm CERTAIN no one's given even a PASSING thought to the TRAFFIC!


Blogger vanx said...

When I started in the Journalism Game, I was a stringer for a daily newspaper that sent me to town zoning board meetings all over Morris County. I would drop in, not knowing anyone or mostof wh at had gone on at the last meeting, and would have to slam out a story and call it in to an editor who didn't know me. I loved those meetings, and I couldn't slam/phone a story now if I tried. Now when I write, I have to sit down, drink tea, visit blogs, make money. The stringer life is for kids.

12:22 AM  
Anonymous Weed Woman said...

The developers and planning boards are shooting for an 'upscale' trendy vilatal downtown. They want outdoor cafes and peopling out and about in the evening spending money. They have a plan for Rochester too, including a microbrewery. We have see it happen in Phoenix. If done well, it can revitalive tired old towns, reclaiming them from the bario and the seedy underside you don't want in your neighborhood. Get the folks with bucks to spend in the upscale shops in and the hookers have to find other places to hang out!

12:54 AM  
Blogger Mrs.Chili said...

HOOKERS?! Who said anything about HOOKERS?!

You crack me up.

It turns out, it was a very eventful meeting. Husband came back with many funny stories to tell about some of the nutjobs that live in our town and how much drama and excitement can be found at a planning board meeting. There was talk of King George III, guns, and compost heaps used against neighbors. Seriously. It almost makes me want to become a regular at City Hall.

8:53 AM  
Blogger gerry rosser said...

Good post. What is the name of your river?

Have I mentioned how much I enjoy reading your posts on my site? I really do like them. I like reading your site, too.

11:24 AM  
Blogger Kizz said...

Oh don't get me started on developing. They're trying to build expensive housing, offices and an NBA ARENA in my neighborhood. Apparently it is unfashionable in developer circles to give even that passing thought to traffic.

I wasn't feeling the love for Weed Woman's plan. But then she said hookers. Now, I think you might want to give it a chance.

Town meetings, community meetings of any kind, can be high comedy. There's a reason Amy Sherman-Palladino uses them as a staple of her Gilmore episodes.

4:18 PM  
Blogger Mrs.Chili said...

I know, huh? Hookers make EVERYTHING more interesting. Well, hookers and drag queens, but that's a post for another time....

4:23 PM  

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