Responsible Village Government (Part 4): Preserving the Germantown Hills Environment

..

This article shows how Responsible Village Boards of the past have taken the time and energy to work with businesses, helping them achieve their goals, without compromising the many other needs of the Village Residents.

In 1991, a developer approached the Village with a proposal to transform the tract of land that is immediately south of what is now Coventry Farms into a shopping center.  The proposal immediately resulted in widespread alarm from the residents of Whispering Oaks, expressing concern about high traffic volume going through their subdivision, noise and light pollution, and blowing garbage.  A Village Board meeting held at the Junior High School Gymnasium nearly filled the facility with people.  They expressed their serious concerns, while everyone remained respectful of each others views. 

To address those concerns, the Village Board negotiated a comprehensive annexation agreement that included a traffic plan satisfactory to the residents, as well as restrictions on noise and light pollution. The developer cooperated with the Village in a professional manner.  The property was annexed into the Village, and the development was set to proceed.  Then one of the three property owners backed-out of the property sale, and the project was canceled.  But The Village Government converted the work already done on the noise and lighting into ordinances that would applicable to the entire Village.  Those and other ordinances set the standard for all of the Commercial Development that has taken place since.

In the mid-1990s, a used car sales business was proposed for the Village.  Before any construction started, a copy of the lighting ordinance was explained to the owner, with the recommendation to involve a lighting engineer.  The owner installed lights that did not meet the ordinance requirements, purchased from a salesman who promised that they would.  The lights lit the yards and living rooms of nearby homes.  A solution was negotiated with the business owner to change the lights to meet the ordinance, which would be paid-for by the company that sold the lights.  The Village Board held off enforcement to allow this to be undertaken.  Before implementation of the changes, the owner closed the operation due to low car sales.

What do these situations have in common?  They illustrate how commercial enterprises, while critical to our economy and the success of our Village, also require reasonable regulation to insure that residential quality of life is not negatively impacted.  And when responsible government officials work together with responsible business owners, agreement can be reached to meet the needs of the residents and the business owners.   

It is past experiences like these that reinforced the desire by our residents for maintaining the environment that we enjoy today in Germantown Hills.  And they captured that desire in a process.

Pictured here is the Comprehensive Plan of the Village of Germantown Hills.  The most recent revision was completed in 2004 by Tri-County Regional Planning Commission.  This is a forward-looking document intended for use by Village officials to guide decision-making, such as where and how much to grow, and what type of zoning laws should be applied to the Village.  This revision was based in-part on a survey of 430 households, which was considered an excellent response at a time when total population in the Village was only slightly over 2,000.

When trying to see what our residents have said they want for their community, we can quote from some of the goals and objectives written in this Comprehensive Plan: 

“Provide retail goods and professional services within the Village to serve the community and the immediately surrounding area.”

“Implement integrated development standards (e.g., aesthetics) for commercial areas in general, and for potential commercial developments around future interchanges.”

“Maintain Germantown Hills as a rural community comprised primarily of single family homes on individual lots.”

“Work cooperatively with public and private utilities to protect and preserve the rural aesthetics of the community.”

These statements demonstrate that the citizens of Germantown Hills are asking their elected leaders to support businesses, but at the same time, to also manage the impact of those businesses on our environment.  To do this requires a careful and intelligent balance of needs of the community and the businesses, and cooperation of all parties.

You cannot ignore the commercial needs of business or they will never be attracted to Germantown Hills. 

At the same time, when you listen to the extreme positions taken by a few members of the Chamber of Commerce lately, and as echoed by our new Mayor when he said “I don’t know of any reason we shouldn’t do anything to help a business make money,” you will run the great risk of throwing things out of balance into a direction that the residents don’t want. 

 

Nearly all of the businesses that we’ve worked with over the past 20+ years have recognize the need for that balance, and have worked cooperatively with the Village Governments to reach it. 

It is only very recently that a few businesses, starting around 2008, have pushed hard to take control of the process for their financial benefit, and the environmental detriment of the Village. 

 

The president of the Chamber of Commerce was recently quoted as saying that the new Mayor and Trustees that they helped elect “does not mean that the village board is under the business community’s control.”  But it seems to us that the leaders of the Chamber want to do exactly that:  Control the Village Government.

This is why the April 5 election is so important.  You have a choice of electing Trustees who will continue to look out for the whole Village, including its residents and businesses, or you can vote for those who answer only to a handful of businesses that are only interested in their own needs. 

           Mike Gaetz                                                     Terry Quinn

Advertisements

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: