Earlier today we wrote about how Pace Meadows (proposed mixed use development east of Highway 40 where te alpacas are) and the Colby School Hotel were two examples of developments that don’t meet the General Plan’s declaration of no new entitlements from a citizen’s point of view.
However, there is another instructive correlation between Pace Meadows and the Colby School Hotel that demonstrates why we need to be careful with granting the Pace Meadows proposal more entitlements than currently exist. One of the interesting things about the proposed Colby School hotel is that it is already granted the right of a hotel. That’s because, before it was a school, it was actually the Snowed Inn and was granted the rights of a hotel in 1985. Those rights “run with the land” and will be available forever. Those rights, that will run forever, once again enable it to become a hotel… and in this case perhaps make it easier to become even a bigger hotel.
That’s not necessarily a bad thing; it’s just something to be aware of.
So, should Pace Meadows morph from 38 residential units (like it is now approved for) to a mix of commercial uses and residential, it will, at a minimum, FOREVER be a mix of commercial uses and residential. It will have the capability to become Little Sandy, even if it takes years to get there.
For example, say the developer does whatever they need to vest the property but then the economy goes into recession and nothing is built for 10 years… sometime in 2025 Little Sandy may pop up, whether it makes sense at that point or not. We also can’t rely on the words of developers. Often times developers attempt to achieve more entitlements, because the property will then be worth more. That means they can sell it to another developer for more money, without ever building anything. So, today’s local developer who you know and trust may be tomorrow’s shark from Boston.
That’s why we need to be absolutely certain that anytime we grant increased entitlements that we are sure we are making the right decision for both today and tomorrow. The Colby School demonstrates that lesson clearly.
So, perhaps this commercial development east of highway 40, next to Home Depot, makes complete sense. Perhaps there is no counter argument. Yet, one might also say, “why not wait and see and see what happens with the 1200 residential units and commercial additions just down the road at Silver Creek” before we make a decision that will last forever. Why not make some plans about where we want development, before we make a pinky-promise we can’t take back?