My name is David Schwartz, and I live in a neighborhood just south of the Ephesus-Fordham district, along Booker Creek in an area that is prone to flooding. I think there are some very positive aspects to the changes proposed for the Ephesus-Fordham area. There are certainly parcels of commercial land in the area that could be put to better use, and residential housing that needs to be upgraded. I’m also all in favor of encouraging walkable streets, creating vibrant public spaces, broadening our tax base and all the other good stuff that we are told the proposed rezoning will deliver.
However, I believe that any proposed changes to the way the Town guides and manages development need to honor the principle of Do no harm. In particular, there are three kinds of harm that I think we need to avoid.
1. Do not harm downstream residents
The neighborhoods south and east of the Ephesus-Fordham area already suffer from inadequate storm water management. Before we proceed to build new 7-story structures a stone’s throw from Booker Creek, we need to have in hand a detailed stormwater management plan for the area that will ensure that new construction does not exacerbate flooding in the area. It is my understanding that such a plan does not yet exist.
2. Do not harm the Town’s finances
If the proposed new development in the Ephesus-Fordham area does not produce new tax revenue sufficient to offset the costs associated with necessary infrastructure improvements and the provision of town services to new residents and businesses, we, the town residents, will have to make up the difference out of our pockets. Before we proceed with this redevelopment plan, we need to have confidence that the proposed new construction will not end up costing us money. I therefore think it is appropriate to require the Town Manager to complete an independently reviewed cost-benefit analysis that demonstrates that the plan will yield a net positive revenue for the Town after all Town services, ongoing infrastructure maintenance costs and school costs are included.
3. Do not harm our civic institutions
Our democratic form of government is based on the principle that people should have a say in matters that affect them. Public participation in planning and development decisions is one of the ways we honor this principle at the local level, and we should not casually eliminate it in the interest of expediency. We can adopt a form-based code to guide development in the Ephesus-Fordham area without giving up the right of the public and their elected representatives to exercise oversight or provide input to future development in the area.