Planning Commission Meeting and a discussion on Smart Growth

October 20, 2009

I was happy to see that the Planning Commission had as many reservations about the golf course development as the Delaware residents did. The developers presented a very detailed proposal and talked about their hopes and dreams of turning this land into a “mixed-use” community to fit peoples’ new needs and desires concerning development. I was quite surprised, though, to hear they had put little consideration and research into working with Perkins and reducing light emissions. I guess they did not forsee it to be as big as an issue to Delaware residents as it was. I agree with statements already made in that there will be a lot of issues with this property that will definitely delay or prevent this kind of development. I also agree that alternatives ,such as Delaware buying the property or moving Perkins itself to a more ideal location, might be more feasible, better ideas. And since I do not know enough, I feel, to provide any intelligent commenting on Delaware development, I am instead going to discuss this idea of a “mixed-use” development. Now I didn’t catch all the details of how exactly this mixed-use area would work, but it immediately reminded me of this idea of “Smart Growth”. The developer seemed to be talking about a community that included more walking access to people’s basic needs and threw around the word ‘economical’ as well. How an isolated area like this could function as an effective mixed-use community confused me. But I did do a little research on Smart Growth to share with you all.

Smart Growth:

According to Wikipedia: Smart growth is an urban planning and transportation theory that concentrates growth in the center of a city to avoid urban sprawl; and advocates compact, transit-oriented, walkable, bicycle-friendly land use, including neighborhood schools, complete streets, and mixed-use development with a range of housing choices.

Smart growth values long-range, regional considerations of sustainability over a short-term focus. Its goals are to achieve a unique sense of community and place; expand the range of transportation, employment, and housing choices; equitably distribute the costs and benefits of development; preserve and enhance natural and cultural resources; and promote public health.

Smart growth is an alternative to urban sprawl, traffic congestion, disconnected neighborhoods, and urban decay. Its principles challenge old assumptions in urban planning, such as the value of detached houses and automobile use.

Elements of Smart Growth include: Creating walkable neighborhoods, encouraging community and stakeholder collaboration, fostering distinctive and attractive communities with a strong sense of place, mixed land use, preserving open spaces and critical environmental areas, providing a variety of transportation choices, among others.

It’s a very interesting direction that I hope development can start to move in, but it gets a lot more complicated when applying these principles to existing areas. Clearly the developers we’re not considering a lot of these principles nor we’re they aiming todo so, but these are principles that I think the Planning Committee should start to consider as it examines future development projects in Delaware.

Here is a map of current Smart Growth projects going on around the county.

And here are some articles about Smart Growth projects going on or in the works in Ohio.

They discuss issues such as…

The problem of empty homes in inner-city Columbus and how “as gas prices rise and the green movement strengthens, walkable urban neighborhoods could become increasingly more attractive than the aged suburbs, with those that require long drives to jobs, services and entertainment likely to turn into the next slums”.

Also how Cleveland is discussed ideas such as expanding urban gardens and farms, growing and producing local food, generating renewable energy, and advance green technologies in their efforts to revive the city at the Sustainable Cleveland 2019 Summit.

And how Cincinnati is working to turn an abandoned can factory into a mixed-use home, store, and office area.

All interesting stuff!


Delaware Development

October 20, 2009

For some reason I didn’t click ‘publish’ hard enough on this posting, so the draft sat here for a week and a half on my dashboard… but anyway:

From what I gather, the Mayor (who strangely reminds me of Howie Mandel) hit the nail on the head with his reaction to the designers’ plans for the development at Perkins. It probably wouldn’t get past all the technical problems before too long, and the project would become a burden faster than a benefit. The gentleman who described his specific designs was obviously passionate about his work, but didn’t give a realistic approach to how this would attract business and income to Delaware County. There is too much piled up against these plans. In my personal opinion I think there are plenty of other spaces on route 23 that would suffice for the small shopping centers and roundabouts being proposed, and why the Perkins area was chosen over these I am not quite sure. Some of the argument had good weight though, like how they cited the lack of a need for a golf course. If there is any effect, what would be felt on Delaware resident’s taxes, especially the property taxes in the Perkins area? The Mayor probably could entertain and ask more questions if there was more time, but the hearing was already hours long.

I found it slightly interesting how all the developers giving their presentations were middle-aged men but their boss was a young woman who looked to be in her late 20’s. She didn’t look too thrilled about things as the hearing progressed.

The presenter seated to the mayor’s far left seemed very dull in his presentation giving the ‘point-by-point’ tour of the area, which most of the audience is probably already familiar with to some degree.

What about developing on the other side of 23? Is there any realistically develop-able land there?


How to Be Idle (Hodgkinson)

October 20, 2009

I thoroughly enjoyed reading How to Be Idle. While all of Hodgkinson’s ideas are not necessarily ground breaking and many are utterly impractical, I liked enormously his social commentary on the pace of Western life. Since the book is divided into 24 chapters, one for each hour of the day, parts of it do become repetitive. However, the irony and sarcasm with which the book is written made for an interesting and fun read, and allowed me to stick through the dull sections. I really enjoyed how he tied in quotes and ideas of various idlers throughout history: poets, thinkers, artists, authors, religious figures, etc. This certainly provided for interesting perspectives and new ways of thinking about people you thought you knew well.

My primary complaint with this book is that at times, it made the act of idling seem very strictly defined. While certainly I don’t think Hodgkinson was saying that you have to do everything in this book in order to be an idler, at times I felt he was being a bit snobby. For instance, I don’t think you have to use loose leaf tea simply in order to enjoy a cup. OR, for that matter, to suggest that coffee drinkers are somehow inferior is ridiculous and contrary to the entire concept of idleness. If I want to be an idler, I will do damn well as I please. Mr. Hodgkinson should agree with me on this. Similarly, idlers should get up whenever they wish–even if that time happens to be 8am. While I do love sleep, I also enjoy getting up early sometimes at a cost to my sleep schedule, in order to have idle time in the morning. Below are listed some of Hodgkinson’s main arguments as well as points and quotes that I found interesting…

Read the rest of this entry »


Community Planning Meeting: Mixed Use or Mixed Up Messages?

October 13, 2009

Thoughts on This Development and Property Rights

First of all, as an aside, the developer’s presentation reminded me very much of the intro theme song for the show “Weeds”:

I was not remotely impressed with the plans that the developers had to offer. While I have certainly seen worse when it comes to new developments, lacking here was any trace of originality for one of the last remaining and unique open spaces between Delaware and Columbus. While I am no fan of  golf courses, just because there currently exists an underutilized golf course at this site does not mean that any other use is inherently better. In fact, I believe that placing another suburban node at this location will only do more to snarl traffic on Route 23. It is exceedingly foolish in the twenty first century to continue building communities as if oil will remain cheaper than bottled water. The plans presented last week were simply not in touch with reality. I might feel slightly different about this project were there plans to incorporate commuter rail or perhaps a light rail line. In the early 1900s, the Columbus Delaware, and Marion Railway offered extensive interurban electric rail service between these destinations. Today, the Columbus metropolitan area could certainly benefit from a commuter rail system, perhaps like this.

Certainly, creating livable, desirable, walkable suburbs is possible. Some jurisdictions in the U.S. have done this with much success. These are transit-oriented developments. Arlington County, Va. is a notable example on how to build dense, interconnected suburbs with easy access to rail and other mass transit. The below aerial photo shows how dense development is clustered around underground metro stations:

rb_aerial

It struck me as ironic that the term “walkable” was thrown around so much, when clearly, a car is still needed to enter or leave the location. Thus, where would people be walking from, and where would they walk to? I also had a problem with the developer’s use of the phrase “mixed use”. The Project for Public Spaces says that in order to be successful, mixed use developments should “be made up of destinations, and each destination should offer many things to do”. Clearly, the plans as presented don’t offer this (discussed more below).

This proposal brings up many issues with regards to property rights. While I believe land owners should have freedom to make use of their land as they see fit, this should only be to a limited extent. In a capitalist society, it is necessary to place constraints on people’s actions. In this way, there needs to be protection against individual gains that are overall detrimental to society.

I feel that neither the panel nor the committee took into account the effects of this development on businesses in downtown Delaware. While perhaps the impact wouldn’t be huge because already there exist so many places like this, it’s important to consider the fact that there are vacant storefronts in downtown Delaware. At the same time, we should be emphasizing development in Columbus itself. Downtown Columbus is composed of many surface parking lots, which could all be converted to residential and commercial development if more transit was offered.

Language of the Developer

The architect and developer kept talking about how this community will “create a sense of place”. However, I fail to see why this is. Although the buildings will be designed to emanate 18th and 19th century architecture, none of the buildings seemed to make defining statements about the proposed neighborhood. Indeed, the pictures of restaurants looked like run of the mill buildings found in strip malls all across America. The panel also kept referring to their plans as a “product”, which to me shows that what they truly care about is profit, not the creation of a wonderful place to live and to work. Similarly, other words commonly used were “model” and “narrative”.

Potential Solutions for Perkins Observatory

As discussed, I think this project should not be built. However, if this proposal is approved, then I think moving the observatory could offer the most hope. Potential new locations that have not already been discussed include the Kraus and Bohannon Preserves. These areas as already owned by the university, and are forested, so light pollution will likely not be a huge factor. The Perkins Observatory is a huge asset to this school and to the community. I believe its permanent removal is simply not an option. it was great to see such a big community turnout, mostly in opposition to these plans, and it will be interesting to see whether this plan actually progresses.


Community Planning

October 11, 2009

I was really interested in the planning commission meeting.  My father is an urban planner, so a lot of the language and the issues were familiar to me.  I think it is interesting to see how a rapidly growing area like Delaware chooses what development can and cannot occur- how do you promote growth while preserving the values and special characteristics of the town?  It seems like the cities master plan is current and relevant and that the planning commission and staff actually use it to help make decisions, which is really great.

The developer’s presentation, to me, seemed to have very little originality.  There are enough new developments in the area that any more need to be really special- especially with the amount of empty houses around right now.  The ‘panel’ didn’t make any points about preserving the individuality of Delaware, indeed they didn’t seem to know much about the area besides that there were rules about lights at night.  Additionally, there was nothing about environmentally-friendly building.  I’m not sure how much of a role this plays in new developments, but it should!

I was glad to hear that there were many other complaints about the proposed development than just light pollution for the observatory. People were worried about losing the green corridor as you enter Delaware from the south, and homeowners near the golf course are worried- and angry- about potentially decreasing property values and losing the picturesque golf course to someone else’s backyard.  There are a lot of houses that have backyards right up against the golf course.

I think that a lot of community development issues like this could be solved if a group of citizens came together to protect an area or a building.  The elementary school that I attended in Cleveland Heights was closed a few years ago.  My parent’s backyard is separated only by a fence from one of the playgrounds, and we were very worried about the future of the property- no one wanted new homes and we wanted to protect the great big playground as a community asset and gathering place.  Luckily, the school board recognized these concerns and the top bids were from local arts groups.  Currently, the Cleveland Music School Settlement owns the building, with a promise to maintain the playground with help from neighbors.  They will be offering music lessons and groups there.

Anyways, I think it’s really fascinating how the planning commission kept talking about how no matter what citizens want, the owners of the property do have property rights.  However, if the planning commission fails to approve development, there’s nothing the developers can do! It will be interesting to watch this saga develop- I think the developers were taken aback by how much opposition they faced and will come back with a much revised plan.


Perkins Observatory vs Development: A Solution?

October 11, 2009

800px-Perkins_Observatory-1.JPG

After attending the Delaware Planning Commission meeting last Wednesday eve regarding potential development of the Delaware Golf Club property, it became clear to me that there is no easy solution to the Developer vs Observatory imbroglio. The image showing the Perkins Observatory property completely surrounded by the failing Golf Course property made it clear that the choice is either to preserve the Observatory or favor the desires of the Golf Course property owner to develop his property. I can’t imagine a compromise that would make both sides happy.

Unless, of course, you think outside of the box.

I believe that some of the Planning Commissioners were hinting, during the meeting, at alternatives to development for the Golf Course property. Would, for example, the owner be willing to sell to the City of Delaware or Ohio Wesleyan? I suspect the value of the property (as potentially developable) might be prohibitive (unless, of course, the Planning Commission bans any development on the site, thus reducing the property value; I doubt they would do that but who knows).

But that does not change the basic issue.

The Perkins Observatory is in a dangerous location. It is surrounded by private property in a prime area for development. Even if the current development plans are stopped, there will certainly be future attempts to develop the land.

So:

A proposal to the Delaware Golf Club land owner and developer: in exchange for the right to develop the property, move the Perkins Observatory and set up a fund for its perpetual maintenance.

Dismantle the telescope, hoist up the observatory building, and truck it away to a safe location.

Ohio Wesleyan moved the massive Eliott Hall on campus twice in the past, and much larger structures have been moved.

ElliottHallOWU

So where to move it?

The closest option would be the Stratford Ecological Center. Since it is a working farm, an observatory may be compatible with the Center’s land uses. Stick it out in one of the fields and create a fund that would preserve the Observatory and also fund the Stratford Ecological Center.

perkins_move

Of course, the Stratford Ecological Center may not be interested in an observatory, even if it comes with funds for the Center.

Another option is Camp Lazurus (Boy Scouts), about 1.5 miles south:

lazarus

A third option is the Highbanks Metro Park, about 8 miles south:

highbanks

The point is that these are three open, green spaces near the current Observatory site that are all used in some way (eg., they are not “wilderness preserves”) by humans. An observatory is a relatively low-impact land use, and indeed requires a relatively undeveloped area with low lighting. Importantly, funding that came with the Observatory would  help support the Observatory and the Center, Camp, or Park – helping to preserve these areas from development.

So?


The unsettling of America: Human Sovereignity and “Living in the Future”

October 7, 2009

Berry is just full of goodies in chapter five. Agricultural degradation and finity, over population, environmental destruction, dissociation of work from life; all boils down as a cause of human nature. Beginning with the pre-american settlement, navigation and exploration, we see the vast exploitation of land and everything exploitable that resides on it. From Columbus to Goya, Berry attributes this to not just the idea of Greed by which has persisited in human nature since the dawn of our time, but more so to the conscience, or lack thereof regarding vast open land and the seemingly limitless boundary of world hardly yet known to be round. In modern day, this excuse cannot be upheld by simple ignorance in a world that is becoming overcrowded and scarce of resources. Instead, Berry delves into the prime example of the industrial conquistador epidomizing the dissocation of the life andf work, whereby the home enacts the center of destruction by offering not just a variety of conveniances and entertaining devices, but more importantly by the mere fact of being set aside from work, and thus the effects of industry and waste and environmental degradation are not elements that are thrown into the faces of the workers/employess/industrial conquistadors, they do not have to put up with it and thus do not feel naturally obligated to clean up as they would in their own home. Despite this one major illusion that is thrust by one’s living place, Berry asks us the source of all other ignorance that perpetuates are otherwise well known problems that encompass the globe. His answer lies in the perception of the future.

Berry claims that the discourse of development and progress can be much explained by the dissociation of work and home, and the assumption of unlimited sovereignity, but he also concludes that these things “do not explain how it happened… the motive has often been greed, but greed has always existed. It is necessary to account for a new intensity of greed- a greed newly empowered, under no constraint as to see itself as evil, allied (so it believes) with a manifest destiny and the way of the world. There must have been, not just a shift of basic presumptions, not just a motive, but also some kind of vision or dream or psychic lure” (p. 56). This vision is that of the future; the grand motivation of human life rests on hope, and nowhere else does hope have the longevity that it does in the future, as opposed to the evident reality of a rotten or monotonous past in one’s life, or the instability of constant change in the present-the idea of a better future may be the heart that keeps mankind alive and going, to continue to manifest and “progress”.

Whether Berry knows it or not; his ideological proposal of mechanism of the future perception of mankind and its resulting worldly degradations have rather extensive foundations in Psychology regarding human motivation, and i personally consider this recognition of Berry’s to be one of his strongest and most profound points of reasoning offered throughout the book. For a sample in support of this allegation towards mankind, i’ve dug up a piece of literature that in itself is expanded on the many accepted ideas of human motivation;

For reference:

Hepburn SP, Barnhofer T, Williams JMG. 2009. The future is bright? Effects of modd on perception of the future. J.   Happiness Stud. 10: 483-496

The pioneers of this study had participants rate the probability of standardized optimistic events and such from their own lives as well, and the likelihood of them happening to theirselves in the future. Low probabilities were highly correlated with bad moods, whereas normal and high probabilities were assessed individuals of stabilized or positive moods, and likewise to reactions from negative stimuli (Hepburn et al. 2009). This experiment was devised of the principals set by previous studies, whereby it is known that patients with mood disorders do not hold positive beliefs towards the future ( O’Connor et al. 2000; Hepburn et al. 2009). Such pessimism towards the future is also an important component to the widely accepted principal of “Beck’s triad”, by which serves as a template for chronic depression. It is also associated as the source of hopelessness in suicidal individuals (Conaghan and Davidson 2002).

Thus the importance of regarding the future as an area of progress and need for change is a real concept that agreeably integrates itself into Berry’s proposal of “how” and “why”, and i would further agree with Berry that this is why our grandiose solutions for agriculture, renewable energy sources, development, etc.; remain so as underway and postponed for future application.