To The Daily Sun,
I’m becoming increasingly alarmed at the level of sprawl here in Laconia. If ever there was a time to think out of the box, now is that time.
I spent my entire youth growing up on Long Island, New York. In 1957 at age 8, we moved from Queens, an over-developed borough of New York City, to Huntington, still a nice town. There were deep woods to explore and appreciate. The rest of Long Island, at that time, was forest and farmland. By the time I was 18, virtually all of that region had turned into a continual series of malls, mini-malls, random housing development and super highways. For me, the devastation couldn’t have been any worse than if the entire island had been plowed under. Try visiting Long Island today. For the most part, you won’t care to stay.
Local businesses and their organizations are always at the core of local political power. That is not a statement of praise or denigration – it is simply how the wheels of power turn in the world. Since the local economy is strongly tied to tourism and real estate, you would be correct in assuming that local development aspirations are strongly bent toward those ends.
I don’t have to argue that point. Everywhere you look, you are starting to notice that our world-famous grand vistas are slowly being nibbled away by the ugly, slow sprawl of McMansions, resorts and an assortment of commercial buildings of various callings. I read an article by a local realtor describing how “views” affect lakeshore property values and how the scarcity of those views is generating speculation value. The longer you wait, the less “views” you have.
Let’s take that last idea to task. It literally says that in order to wring out short-term profit, you have to be first to snatch the goods. If you follow this local development train of thought, you get what you are asking for, i.e., urban sprawl. You also get long-term “living space” attrition unless the quality, quantity and placement of such space has been well-planned.
The discovery of a disease always indicates immediate treatment. But sprawl is a different animal. Once sprawl starts, the argument sways toward, “Why save it – it’s gone anyway.” For sure, the fake promises of a stable economy and secure tax base always win that argument. Based on the many towns I lived in during Boston’s go-go technology years, I have to say I never witnessed one that achieved the balance between growth and infrastructure. And infrastructure was always the loser in that equation. Just visit most any neighborhood around any large city in the United States to see where you stand on that issue.
In my world, “development” does not necessarily equate with “progress.” So many Laconia old-timers have told me that the urban renewal projects of 60 years ago ruined the local identity here. After seeing pictures of that cozy old village, I must agree. The persistence in downtown facelift thinking as a means to turn the local economy seems to validate this bad judgment.
I am not an urban planner and am not equipped to offer real-world solutions. But if I were in such a position, I would start with the question, “What do you want here for the long-term?”
If it were up to me, I would secure my long-term value. For this region, that includes the non-material — but high land value — need to safeguard this relatively tiny gem of real estate. It also includes the phasing out of cheap thrill attractions and moving toward long-term planning and zoning that ensures future development that is secured by a meaningful conservation plan. Regarding a future economy I would think, for example, that Laconia is the perfect nest for a lot of high-tech companies. And, yes, maybe we are a bit far from Harvard — but if we tried a little harder?
So, here’s the choice; You can continue to allow the tight magnetic core of local business to own this area’s future, or, you can organize and choose to lay down long-term, achievable goals to save this area’s pristine qualities.
The Lakes Region is a perfect emerald gem that came to you without occlusions. It is the goose that laid the golden egg of your tourism business. Kill the goose and it is lost forever. The record salmon, invasive species and lake pesticide usage are the starting losses here...and it’s happening right now before your eyes.
There is still time to put a damper on mindless, cancerous short-term gain. Having said that, I suppose there will always be a market for cheap thrills. But that market doesn’t pay out anywhere near the foresight of our neighbors in, say, Wolfeboro or Burlington. I would hope that regional towns are now working together in the spirit of conservation that this world-class plot of land deserves.
Paul B. Utiger
- Written by Mike Mortensen
- Category: Letters
- Hits: 378