When I moved here in 1968, I actually thought I had moved from one small community into another small farming community. At least that is what it looked like when we built our house.
The town highway garage was at the corner of Tibbitts and Kellogg; there were no banks, office complexes or shopping center on Kellogg Road; it was all small 1,000 sq. ft. homes. Agway was where Walgreen & Dunkin Donuts is and there were farms along Oxford Road.
If you talk to some of us "old-timers", you will often hear us say, "We never had this flooding like it is now!"
Don't believe it? According to another Observer Dispatch Opinion column dated February 16, 1979, Cooperative Response to Sauquoit Flooding, we would be right!
"Most of the flooding has occurred near the mouth of the Sauquoit Creek in the Whitestown area. Paris and New Hartford have experienced very few problems, if any."But times change and apparently I now live in a community on the way to trying to become a city...the largest and best in Oneida County! Sorry, if that sounds like sarcasm; that's what it is meant to be!
When and how did all the flooding issues start to happen?
A Daily Press article dated February 21, 1986, Area Attracts Developers; Expansion Continues on Commercial Drive, lists all the development on Commercial Drive up to the time of the article:
"Industries struggling for survival in the Utica-Rome area and an unemployment figure that ranks among the highest in the state haven't slowed developers along New Hartford's Commercial Drive (Route 5A)."Toward the end of the article, then Supervisor John Kazanjian is quoted as saying:
"New businesses are always welcome, but success does have it's problems"..."Our planning board is more active than our town board." "This is no longer a small bedroom community."Then there is the Observer Dispatch article dated August 17, 1988, From Pasture to Commerce; Washington Mills has grown a lot in past 25 years.
"Officials don't expect the current development to mark the end of Washington Mills growth." "There's going to be more and more development along Oneida Street or more new apartments or housing developments," Back said. (Gerald Back, then codes enforcement officer for New Hartford)About the same time, housing developments were starting to spring up in the southern end of town...not small homes, but 3,000 - 4,000 square foot homes. Swimming pools, tennis courts, trees being cut done...all added to the flooding issues.
Yes, we truly are no longer a bedroom community...we are a community with major flooding problems.
Even though in 1977 the town board adopted a local law to fix most if not all flooding problems by requiring developers to create or extend drainage districts to provide for maintenance of stormwater facilities in their development, the law was randomly enforced. Some developers did form drainage districts and some didn't.
Actually, didn't matter because the town board(s) and planning board(s) never used the law except I can recall one time that a district was used to pay for a stormwater study in 2005. Other than that, districts were never used to pay for flooding issues. Everyone else in town (and in the villages) "paid the piper" for uncontrolled development.
Most people don't even realize the amount of property taxes that have been collected to pay for the fixes because it is included in the town budget or bonded each year; the cost is included in your town taxes.
But soon you may very well start to see the impact of development on your tax bill. The plan is to place a separate fee or tax on each parcel for maintenance issues relating to flooding by forming drainage districts and dissolving the districts that were created by developers.
I guess the question is...how much are you willing to pay in addition to your other property taxes to alleviate flooding issues caused by uncontrolled growth in the Town of New Hartford?