Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Charlotte Residents Prefer Declining Tax Base to Port Redevelopment

Sasaki Associates unveiled their "final" plans for redevelopment of the Port of Rochester last night. From the looks of the rendering below, they accommodated a number of resident concerns such as removing mid-rise condo buildings that blocked views of the lake and lowering the overall density of the development. Personally, I likes what I sees. This new plan allows for potential continuation of ferry service, creates hundreds of new housing units, a number of new retail spaces, a significant public marina, and a large public square. What's not to like? Well, sure enough, you can never please all the people all of the time.

News10 NBC interviewed one of many irate Charlotte residents. “We won't have a beautiful view from Lake Avenue anymore,” John Foy said. “All we'll see is brick buildings.” Well first of all John, it's "all we'll see are brick buildings", get it right. Second, and more importantly, what beautiful view from Lake Avenue are you referring to? I've heard this sentiment before from Charlotte residents opposed to redevelopment at the Port of Rochester. Every time I've been up there though, I haven't found any "beautiful view" from Lake Avenue that would be disrupted by this development.

Last I checked, when you look up "beautiful view" in the dictionary or even the thesaurus, you do not see a picture of the parking lots that are currently found at the Port. But don't take my word for it, see for yourself. Google "beautiful view" at your leisure and look at the image results. Sure enough, not a single result shows the Port parking lots, let alone parking lots anywhere else. The resulting images are of mountains, parks, historic sites, and city views. That's right, urbanity is considered by many to be "beautiful". Therefore, all of those ugly "brick buildings" will likely improve the views from Lake Avenue and make Charlotte a destination with a real identity. Who knows, it may even show up on a future Google search.

Even if I have convinced Mr. Foy that he is wrong on the "beautiful view" argument, he is ready with another complaint. “The property should belong to the people and should be used to the advantage of most of the people,” Foy said. “Now when you get down to this it's going to be to the advantage of a very few people.” As a proud member of this group of "people" Mr. Foy refers to, I have to completely disagree. You see, people like me prefer to be able to get the highest and best use out of waterfront land. A sprawling parking lot only benefits those who choose to park there. A new urban village complete with multiple housing styles, varied retail and dining options, cultural activities, office space, parks, tree-lined streets, and a marina -- well, that really does benefit "most of the people".

Considering the fact that this is City-owned land and is currently producing zero tax benefit, I can't see how anyone could possibly be opposed. We could continute to use the land for parking and generate zero tax benefit from it or we could turn it over to the private sector and create significant new taxable development to help stablize our city. I suppose it comes down to a philosophical question. Should we sit idly by while our city hollows out and the suburbs sprawl further into the countryside? Or should we do whatever we can to maximize the positive assets of our hometown?

Residents of Charlotte are rightfully protective of their beautiful waterside community, however, they must realize that this redevelopment will allow hundreds of others to enjoy that same lifestyle in ways that are currently unavailable to them. The development will also help soften the blow of future budget crunches by increasing the tax base. Change is inevitable, I hope the residents of Charlotte choose to embrace it before the opportunity passes them by.