Friday, September 15, 2006

Victory in Lima!

The anti-sprawl movement in Greater Rochester has not had many success stories to point to over the years. Years after former Mayor Bill Johnson's heroic efforts to get the community thinking about sprawl, we as a region still have not decided to be smart about our growth patterns. Development has continued relatively unabated across our urban fringe, adding thousands of new homes and numerous big box retail plazas every year. This localized growth occurs despite a lack of real regional economic and population growth; thereby harming the region as a whole while only temporarily improving the tax bases of a handful of individual communities. It seems though that maybe this region is slowly turning a corner.

The Town of Victor, a posterchild for poorly planned sprawling development over the years, has apparently realized that too much growth can be a bad thing. Commercial development proposals along Route 96 are now encroaching upon residential subdivisions built in the 1980s and 1990s. Without any money to expand road capacity, traffic in Victor has reached a boiling point. Residents are upset and apparently are not going to take it any more. Thanks to significant public outcry and a defiant Planning Board, Victor has to-date successfully resisted a proposed Wal-Mart near the confluence of 90, 490, and 96 and has greatly decreased the size of other developments planned for that booming corridor. While I still think Victor has a long way to go before being praise-worthy, they should certainly be commended for their recent efforts.

More surprising however is today's news that the proposed Wal-Mart on pristine farmland in rural Lima has been withdrawn by the corporate giant. David, manifested by Lima Citizens for Responsible Development, successfully slew the Wal-Mart Goliath. There was no logical argument for allowing this proposal to move forward. Lima is not a fast-growth community, and as of 2000, has less than 5,000 residents. With Wal-Marts located in Geneseo, Henrietta, and Canandaigua, Lima residents didn't have to go far for their Wal-Mart fix. The likely reality is that Wal-Mart wanted to be in/near the growing Village of Honeoye Falls, but there was no way that the Village or the Town of Mendon would allow that to happen. If it was not good enough for Mendon, it was not good enough for Lima. Congratulations are due to the proud folks who stared evil in the face and did not flinch.

Still, for every Lima, there are the Macedons, Websters, Swedens, and Hopewells welcoming these big box monstrosities like Troy welcomed the horse. We need to acknowledge and learn from our mistakes; sustainable development is a necessity. Let's limit growth to the areas where development has already occurred. Let's implement a regional tax-sharing plan that encourages local municipalities to work together to determine the most appropriate places for development. Let's create a real Regional Planning Council that has the power to deny development applications that are not in line with our stated objectives. Without regional planning and cooperation, and certainly without regional economic and population growth, we face a dark future. We've got a long way to go, but at least some places are beginning to see the light.