To the Valley News:
There’s been a lot of comments about planning lately in the newspaper – both for and against the idea. We all have heard the saying, “failing to plan is planning to fail” but what does that really mean? I moved to this area because I love the area and I love our little town. I can understand people’s reluctance to see some sort of “plan” put in place. I don’t want to live somewhere where I’m told what color I can paint my house or that I can’t build a tree house for my kids or a doghouse in my back yard, but I would like to share my personal experience of what can happen when there is no planning at all.
I grew up on a farm in a very rural area of eastern Pennsylvania. Like many people in this area, my family had lived on the property for many generations. As a young girl I can remember standing in front of my house, and, except for my grandparent’s home and my uncle’s home that were also on our property, I was able to see only one other house in any direction – belonging to the farm across our street and about one-quarter mile up the road. However, around that time a man by the name of Levitt came to the area and started buying up local farms. He had built a small community in New York, but this time his plans were much bigger. Since there was no local building plan or zoning codes, he was free to do what he wanted. In just six years, Mr. Levitt changed the entire landscape of the area, building over 17,000 homes in the area. As surrounding farms and homeowners tried to sell their property, they found they could not get what they had expected for their homes so they ended up selling to developers who built townhouses, apartment complexes, and low income and government subsidized housing. In less than 10 years, the population in the area increased by almost 100,000. To support this increase in population, malls, shopping centers and other stores were built, followed by fast food restaurants, bars, “adult” book stores, strip clubs, and even a few head shops. Did this increase in the tax base reduce our taxes? No. The increase in population required more schools (over 40 new schools were built), roads, police, fire, etc., causing our taxes to go up. In addition, Interstate 95 was built behind us, taking a large portion of our family farm, and the traffic on the quiet country road I grew up on increased to a point that made living there unbearable.
Planning is necessary to protect what’s good about our town. To keep out large developers or to prevent certain types of business from opening in our town, we need to plan. If you are concerned about Elizabethtown’s plan – go to their website and read it (it’s available for anyone to read). If you see something you don’t like, go to the meetings, make your thoughts be known, but don’t get rid of it entirely. Change will happen. Planning for the changes is the only way that you can be sure the changes will be what you want. My father and grandfather never imagined their rural, country lifestyle would change the way it did in such a short period of time.