Northfield Chamber of Commerce President David Ludescher was our in-studio guest this week. David’s words about the development principles (see draft 2 here – PDF) during the open mic portion of the second public meeting on the Northfield Comprehensive Plan a couple of weeks ago (right photo, click to enlarge) caught our attention and so we invited him to
argue with us discuss the issues. He recently attached these comments to the public comments portion of the plan’s website (public comments are still being accepted there):
55% of the participants in the Comp Plan meeting stated that the primary objective of the Comp Plan should be directed to Northfield’s “appearance”. I would argue that a Comp Plan directed at maximizing appearances will more closely resemble a townhouse association than the utopia which is imagined. Someone told me last night that she used to belong to a townhouse association that made her take down a birdhouse because it violated the rules established to keep the townhouses looking nice.
I am almost sure that our present downtown was primarily the result of haphazard development, which was quite likely considered an eyesore by many in its own day. The east side homes, considered by many to be the ideal kind of housing development for Northfield, were quite likely, the Mayflower Hill of its day. They were large, monstrous houses compared to the shantys which were the norm. These houses probably ruined the character of Northfield of the time.
Should “appearances” dominate the planning strategy for Northfield? Would we settle for the appearance that our children are learning, instead of requiring educational product as the true test? Would we settle for the doctor making us look good on the outside while our health deteriorated? Would we buy a car that looked good if it didn’t have a working engine? Would we consider the most important quality of our friends that they look good?
We all know that a Comp Plan designed on appearances, and for appearance’s sake will ultimately fail to achieve anything but appearances.
I say that we need to strive for more lasting, and intrinsically valuable goals for the future of our town. Let’s take a serious and honest look at what Northfield needs to do in the coming decades to continue to be a self-sustaining community. Granted, people will be attracted to Northfield if it looks wonderful, has great public amenities, and offers a small town character. But, it will not be a diverse cross-section of people. It will be people who want to belong to a very large townhouse association in which the price of admission is high taxes and excessive regulation. — David Ludescher
Click play to listen. 34 minutes. (Corrected audio as of 1:45 PM)
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