“There are many ways of going forward, but only one way of standing still”. Franklin Roosevelt
Our local governments are crippled by inaction. Opponents of change call for increasing study until action is prevented entirely. Legislators who are positive of the right course of action, but do not want to seem too rash and unthinking, concede to the endless delegation of responsibility to subcommittees, working groups and consultants. Regardless of the results produced, opponents of action will keep demanding more exacting scrutiny until the will of our elected officials, the attention of the public, and the patience of our staff are reduced to apathy.
I’m concerned that this will be the fate of the Collegetown Plan. The plan was endorsed by Common Council after more than two years of consideration, $180,000 spent on a professional consultant team, countless hours spent by city staff and the Collegetown Vision Implementation Committee – a body I was honored to serve. Yet the criticisms continue.
We must realize the severity and novelty of the problems we face. According to the U.S. Census, Collegetown is by far the most dense neighborhood in our county, with 43.7 people per acre. Compare that with only 9.7 downtown. Land values in the core of Collegetown are exceeding $8million per acre.
Furthermore, we know that our population is continuing to grow. Ithaca College enrolled a record number of students, and Cornell intends to follow suit. The Tompkins County Planning Department concluded that the County will need to add 4,000 additional units over the next 10 years.
We have little control over how quickly our region grows– but we do have agency over how we prepare for this growth. We need to be proactive instead of reactive. I suggest that we welcome smart, intentional growth within our city to head off the continued sprawl that encroaches on our agricultural and recreational land, increases reliance on automobiles, stresses our infrastructure and unfairly burdens city taxpayers.
It is time that we recognized that we have unique problems which require bold solutions. We cannot rely solely on past policy measures. The answer to too many cars is not necessarily more parking spaces. The answer to unsightly and out of character development is not necessarily stricter zoning.
The plan proposes the adoption of binding design guidelines. We can dictate aesthetically attractive buildings without restricting developers’ ability to provide rental units, make money, and generate tax revenue.
Height does not have to be the enemy. Tall, attractive buildings in the core of Collegetown can provide the city with a positive urban texture.
We can change traffic patterns and parking behaviors by providing alternative methods of transportation which are more affordable, reliable and convenient than the use of cars.
I know that we are capable of bold and intelligent action. We must simply be resolve to not yield to the fear that would see us stopped in our tracks.
The Collegetown Plan is finished and is ready to be enacted. Our neighborhood is ready to move forward.
For more information about the plan: