Just Say Yes!
JUST SAY YES
It is very easy for anyone reading most Hudson Valley news outlets coverage of land use issues to become confused. For instance, a recent excellent Times Herald Record editorial explained and encouraged efforts in California and New York State to promote the implementation and use of solar energy as an alternative to other traditional energy sources such as the controversial CPV site.
However, in prior weeks that same paper reported on the efforts of many local municipalities, spurred by many local residents, to oppose and restrict development of community solar developments in their respective municipalities.
Several of the communities mentioned in this article were the exact same communities where people have coordinated protests, attended Board meetings, and written letters to the editor to oppose the CPV project. Interestingly, very few, if any of the people opposing CPV have appeared or written letters to support the community solar projects proposed in those municipalities, or attempt to educate those opposing solar of the long term, important benefits of solar.
The coverage is similar regarding the issue of housing for our area. News outlets often bemoan the lack of affordable housing in our communities and rightly point out the impact that lack of housing has on the need to house our work force.
However, this support relates to the generic issue of housing. When it comes to any specific housing project, the coverage predominantly focuses on the opposition to the project and concerns regarding perceived impacts of such housing development.
I remember the pre-2008 housing boom. Many people were calling for moratoriums and decrying the alleged impacts the proposed new housing would have on our schools, which would supposedly become over-crowded, despite the fact that all reliable studies showed otherwise. Now, fast forward to recent years, many of the same people who protested housing developments are now protesting the closing of the schools due to the lack of school children, and opposing school budgets.
Many local government officials have jumped on the train and gladly offer support to commercial development, but express concerns and too often oppose any potential housing development. These officials ignore the demonstrated correlation between the provision of decent housing and the ability to attract and retain commercial development. Additionally, when your work force lives in your community, they spend in your community, which greatly enhances our local economy.
The good news is that there are efforts and organizations out there seeking to educate the public to help address these concerns, which hopefully will result in more sustainable communities. A couple of quick examples are the folks at NYSERDA, who offer to educate the public on issues related to solar and other alternative energy sources, and the Hudson Valley Pattern for Progress Center for Housing Solutions, which is constantly preparing, examining and presenting relevant data showing the impact on a community when it does not provide appropriate housing opportunities.
Hopefully these efforts will continue and our municipal boards can focus on proper and intelligent planning, and in doing so, have access to relevant and correct information to address the concerns of any opposition.
It is time to say yes to and seek to attract appropriate and sustainable development to enhance our communities and provide opportunities for all of our citizens.
Here are some sample steps you can take to encourage and support responsible development in your community:
- Be an active participant in your community’s planning process (let your officials know what you support instead of waiting to oppose something you may be against)
- When a developer proposes something that is close to what your community said they wanted, show up to municipal and planning board meetings to support that development
- Better yet consider serving on a planning or zoning board in your community
- No project is without compromise. We may have to accept some inconvenience for the greater good
- Don’t let perfection be the enemy of the good
John C. Cappello is a partner practicing Land Use/Environmental and Municipal Law. He can be reached by phone at 866-303-9595 toll free or 845-764-9656 and by email.