Planner offers much more than writer suggests

 

To the editor:

 

Joe Sousa says he will not vote for hiring a town planner because the town has not seen any commercial growth, but it is for this reason, among many others, that Tiverton should hire a town planner.

 

Mr. Sousa misrepresents and misunderstands the role of a town planner as one with a single purpose of immediate economic prosperity, putting Tiverton’s long-term economy, health, and quality of life at risk.

 

So what does a town planner do? Briefly, they plan for both the present and future needs of the town as a whole. They collect and analyze information such as demographics, history, land types and usability, utilitarian networks (such as power lines, roads, and water supplies), housing, the economy, water bodies, and open and recreational spaces. They understand that these features that make up a town are interconnected and contribute to the overall health and quality of life of the people that live there.

 

Towns are complex systems and planners help to find the balances between these systems for the benefit of the whole town, not just a single system or single property owner. That sort of single-mindedness results in the all-too-familiar strip malls and big box developments that may add short-term financial growth, but ultimately detracts from the scenic and social character of Tiverton, and adds to the needless degradation and destruction of important natural resources that keep the community safe and healthy as well as the loss of important social and historical connections, and increases demands on fire, police, and public works resources.

 

Good town planners suggest opportunities for commercial viability that are complementary to the town’s resources, quality of life, history, and long-term goals. They engage the community in a dialogue about the goals and issues of their town and make recommendations to build a framework to get to those goals. The barrage of inappropriate development proposals that disregard Tiverton’s basic qualities of size and assets of natural resources illustrate the necessity for the expertise of a town planner.

 

Joe Sousa’s parochial view of the role of a town planner is a threat to his own concerns for an economically healthy Tiverton. Decisions about commercial growth will have an effect on other features and systems of Tiverton, including those qualities that make Tiverton a desirable place to live. Joe Sousa lacks the foresight and vision of an economically successful town that does not abuse its natural, historic, and social resources in the process.

 

This is the justification for hiring a town planner, Mr. Sousa. Please respect the people who live here now and 30 years from now. Your concern should not be the hiring of a town planner, but the exemplary qualifications of a candidate that can guide Tiverton through this process with dignity and care for the beautiful people and place of Tiverton.

 

Sue Costa Paschke, MLA, ASLA associate

 

Tiverton

 

3 Comments

  1. Joe Sousa said:

    The reason businesses don’t come to Tiverton are many . High taxes top the list . Adding more hoops to jump through along with a higher tax burden will not help our town . The previous planner did nothing to help our town . Drawing pictures and adding regulations does not encourage growth .
    Zoning regulations prohibit big box stores and limit signage size already . That argument is a red herring . I’ve read the ordinance and sat on the Zoning board for six years . I attend every public hearing pertaining to potential development .
    The addition of a planner is a waste of taxpayer money . If you are saying I don’t understand the role of a planner you are wrong .
    Our Industrial Park has had people interested in purchasing lots but none are sold . Look at the council if you wonder why our commercial tax base is stagnate . Look at our zoning ordnance and the changes over the last twenty years . The addition of a planner wont fix the problem . I wont support additional employees period . If we can get the spending under control and the State Legislature to do the same , then maybe things will change .

    • SMCP said:

      As stated in my letter, Mr. Sousa, your understanding of the role of a planner is extremely narrow. I appreciate that as a part of the Budget Commission you are concerned with creating a tax-base outside of residential property taxes. However, economic growth must be complementary to the values, character, and health of Tiverton. It is not about making the most money you can at all costs. Look at the costs, years later, to the town and residents on Bay Street because of New England Gas Company’s practices and subsequent poisoning of soil. Good town planners help guide towns toward sensible economic development.

      The Economic Development Commission’s (EDC) report, ‘The Value of Commercial Development to Tiverton; What Everyone Should Know’, states that the cost per dollar of revenue of residential property is a budget deficit, while commercial property is a budget surplus. These findings come from Robert J. Johnston’s “Aquidneck Island and Open Space: An Economic Perspective” and are based on a study of 14 comparative New England towns.

      What the EDC’s report fails to relate is the main point of the study that describes how open space is also an important source of budget surplus.

      “Open space can influence the economic and social condition of any community. Although any specific parcel of open space will have unique impacts on quality of life and on other economic benefits, positive economic impacts are often associated with open space preservation. Residents must determine whether the positive impacts of an open space acquisition outweigh the costs of acquisition…in many cases the economic benefits of open space are considerable, and can easily outweigh costs, even before non-economic benefits are considered.”

      This is just one piece of evidence that supports a sensible approach to town planning, for which a town planner is trained in.

      The documents cited above can be found here:

      http://tivertonedc.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/DEVELOPING-THE-FUTURE-TIVERTON-rev-6-7-13.pdf
      http://nsgl.gso.uri.edu/riu/riut97002.pdf

  2. Joe Sousa said:

    We obviously have different opinions on the role of a planner . We have volunteers who do the work you describe . That’s how we do it in our little town . The seniors on fixed incomes can’t afford anymore . Small town ,small government .

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