Q. My home is near a golf course that has been approved for a housing development, and we’re very concerned. The traffic is already very heavy, so more traffic is going to be a big problem for us. I anticipate that our property value will go down. My question is, how do these decisions get made without realizing how it hurts the neighbors? Can we fight the development? And if not, is there any way to relieve the traffic when it gets built?
A. This has been an ongoing issue in many communities, and the key problem is traffic and planning, or lack of planning. You can’t blame your local zoning board for the decision, if all requirements were met for the decision to be made, especially since zoning boards rely on the determination of your county planning commission.
Unfortunately, the name of that commission is not an accurate description, since I learned firsthand while serving on the commission’s advisory panel that there really is no master plan, and no intention of developing one, at least at the time I asked about seeing one, back in 2006-2010. Based on the reactions from the County Legislature, made up mostly of people in the legal community and not the professional planning community, there didn’t seem to be much support for the county executive’s initiative to develop a comprehensive plan, at least not at that time. So, when I see cases being presented to zoning boards, I’m not sure that there’s a real study of the facts and conditions related to the proposal before the county planning commission gives its formal declaration.
The roads are being choked with more traffic, and it has become a topic of conversation among many drivers who have noticed that their once navigable streets are now more like rush-hour traffic for most of the day. Take note of the fact that because buildings were allowed, starting in the 1930s, to build right against the sidewalks, most main arteries have no space in which to expand.
You can petition to stop a development, but I doubt you’ll have any success. The requirement for appealing a zoning decision allows a 30-day window to file the documents, which has probably passed. Unless the same individuals who have dismissed or ignored the need for a master plan in your county take this issue seriously, moving to a new neighborhood isn’t going to solve our collective problem. There is always the opportunity to study the current and future needs of a growing built environment, but it has to move forward and be taken seriously. We live in the shadow of one of the best examples in the world of city planning. Subways and wide avenues were being built in New York City before most people even dreamed of a car. Good luck!
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