March 18, 1999
Council: 'Smart growth' bill evokes both concerns, opportunities
A "smart growth" bill introduced in the Legislature presents both concerns and opportunities for business growth, The Council has told the bill's sponsors.
The bill, which is sponsored by Senator Mary Lou Rath (R-Williamsville) and Assemblyman Sam Hoyt (D-Buffalo), would authorize the Governor to implement statewide "smart growth" policies designed to:
- Mitigate the growth of suburban sprawl.
- Preserve farmland and other green space.
- Encourage the use of existing infrastructure.
- Promote cooperative regional land-use planning.
The bill would also create a commission to advise the Governor on smart-growth policies.
Policies that mitigate urban sprawl at the expense of economic growth would be cheered only in other states "which, until recently, have eaten our economic lunch by providing better competitive opportunities," Walsh wrote.
He added that:
- Policies designed to restore cities should include incentives, liability waivers, and "intended-use" cleanup standards for remediation of brownfield sites. Current cleanup standards and liability risks make brownfields unattractive for redevelopment.
- Creative regional land-use policies and planning strategies, such as "Vision 2000" in Erie County, should be promoted by the state to other regions.
- New York's antiquated building code must be modernized to encourage the rebuilding of neighborhoods, cities, and older suburbs by increasing flexibility in renovations.
- State incentives to equalize infrastructure costs should be put in place. Now, it is typically less costly to build new infrastructure in greenfield projects than to renovate existing infrastructure.
Top-down land-use planning would turn New York's rich home-rule history upside down, Walsh wrote. The framework in this bill could make such state planning possible, he added, noting that advocates at a recent smart-growth conference urged New York to adopt statewide land-use planning requirements modeled on the Adirondack Park Agency.
"Nothing would bring economic development in New York to a screeching halt faster than implementing a similar land-use regulatory regime on a statewide basis," Walsh warned.