Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Where I stand on development, Part 1

Plainfield needs development. Our vacant and underutilized downtown properties offer a great opportunity to ease our property tax burden and improve the quality of life for Plainfielders. We also have development opportunities along our rail corrider.

Development can help us achieve our vision of a vibrant central business district with shops and restaurants that attract not just segments of our population but all residents. We can create opportunities for the arts to flourish. We can not only protect our historic and architectural resources, we can require that new construction adds to the character of our historic streetscapes. Along the rail corridor we can create new job opportunities for our residents.

Development does not guarantee these benefits for Plainfield residents. It must include significant input from the community to make sure that we are doing it right. It's not just the developers money that is at risk, it is our resident's quality of life that is at risk. After all, our children and their children will have to live with the results of development for many years to come. With this in mind, I propose the following measures to create a shared vision for development in Plainfield:

1. We should always try other ways to spur development and only use redevelopment as a last resort. Redevelopment is a very costly and time consuming enterprise that takes a lot of government involvement. Other methods that must be used include

* Effective code enforcement to help maintain the integrity of buildings and neighborhoods

* Increased police presence in our downtown

* Active marketing of Plainfields assets to attract new businesses

We must do much more to prevent the need for designating an area as blighted.

2. We need a moratorium on all new redevelopment studies until a shared vision for development in Plainfield is created.

3. The Planning Board and Council should conduct a study of all currently approved redevelopment studies and plans that have not led to action and recommend which ones should be revoked or put on hold.

4. Property owners should be encouraged and offered incentives to become partners in redevelopment projects. Eminent domain should be a step of last resort only.

5. The city should start a community visioning process that will guide future development for the downtown and the rail corridor. This process should be led by the Mayor and Council and should elevate the status of residents and business owners from bystanders to active participants.

6. The visioning process should include active outreach to the community so input is obtained by people who do not attend Council and Planning Board meetings.

7. This vision process should build on the strategic planning process conducted in Plainfield eight years ago.

8. The community input should be used to create a report and guidelines that city officials and developers can use to proceed with development.

Development is needed in Plainfield but it will only be beneficial if we make residents and business owners partners in the process. This is not an easy task but a necessary one if we want to get it right. I am working with my Council colleagues and the city administration to put these recommendations into effect. Let me know what you think at

Check here tomorrow for more on development.

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