An Island without fear…Part 1 of 4

Dear Islanders;

 Get a plan, control our destiny
 
Fear is a great motivator. That’s why con-men and shifty politicians use fear to get your attention. When we are afraid, especially afraid that our health and well-being is at stake, we become more alert and act more quickly, even irrationally. You might jump awake at a bump in the night, when during the day, you would not even flinch hearing the same sound.
 
Fear can lead to more than bad decisions
 
Fear can lead to more than just bad judgment. When we feel fear, and therefore great emotional stress, we often perform poorly. Imagine an athlete lining up an extra point in a meaningless game. Now imagine him lining one up to win a Super Bowl. In Buffalo, we know that pain far too well. The stress accompanied with fear—fear of failure, fear of harm—can set us up for failure.  
 
And then, of course, are the darker emotions that often accompany fear. Master Yoda once said, “Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering”.
 
What do we fear on Grand Island?
 
On Grand Island, I hear many fears from residents and many of them are the same. There is the specific fear that someone or something we don’t like might end up right next to our home. There is a broader fear that Grand Island will lose its unique sense of place because we either cut down too much or grow too little. And then there are even broader fears that either outside or internal forces will leave us left out or left behind.
 
We can overcome fear with belief
 
Belief trumps fear. Belief in who we are and what we can be. I have been pretty clear about what I think we can be. It’s not something totally different from what we are. But we can be a better version of the Grand Island we all know and love. Think about our future, less as something new, more as something improved—like you after six weeks of Christmas cookies versus you after six weeks of hitting the gym and eating right.
 
I see a Grand Island with enhanced pedestrian access, up and down the Boulevard and around the Island offering more choices for runners, bikers, hikers, and kayakers. I see a revitalized Boulevard, revitalized in part through our solar power projects offering cash to build new amenities like a lighting infrastructure; and revitalized by a Community Center to enhance our physical and mental health. At the center of it all I see a new DeGlopper Memorial memorializing our deepest values and scarifies.
 
I see broadband connecting our children and community facilities to the greatest educational and business resources available. I see us replacing dying ash trees with new and diverse types up and down our roads and in our parks. I see protected ancient forests (forever locked in and secure) that clean our air and calm our souls. Finally, I see corners of economic activity based on specialty commerce and our unique island setting glowing like hot embers in patches of wood and water.
 
But belief alone will not get us there. We need action.
 
How do we achieve all this? Like I’ve said before, step one is that we create a plan. That plan (a Master Plan, or a community planning initiative) will do more than lay out our vision. It will provide the base by which we can apply for additional grant moneys (a Master Plan is a prerequisite for many grants). And this will not be Nate’s plan, but will be the prudent product of a thousand baby steps that are going on now (meetings with stake holders) and will wrap up at the end of 2017.
 
The plan will also provide predictability
 
How do you stop big box stores and unneeded apartment complexes? You zone it out. Simply stated, you make laws to stop it.
 
As a general rule, the New York Court of Appeals has said that NO ONE has a vested right to a zoning designation on their land. Thus, we can change zoning to suit the changing needs of Grand Island. There are few exceptions to this. For example, to claim that a zoning change was wrong, a developer would have to show that they have all the approvals in place and actually started a project, i.e., the “Turning Dirt Rule” before the zoning was changed. I researched this for hours.  It is all very convoluted, but the writing on the wall is easy.  We need to lock a revised zoning plan up NOW for a future green and healthy Grand Island.
 
But what if you are in the construction company or a business looking to expand? Well, for these folks, as well, we need predictability. A Master Plan will allow these parties the knowledge that they can invest in Grand Island, but that they must invest in the right way. Large plants should not be expanding into residential neighborhoods. And whether you are a homeowner wondering about the bulldozers in your backyard or the small business person who spent a hundred thousand dollars investing in a bed and breakfast; you should not have to live in fear that knee jerk zoning changes will ruin your future.  
 
If you aim for less, you will get it
 
Some may read these words and say, “Good luck, dreamer.” But an Island with a plan, with a vision, with predictability and without fear is within our grasp. “We” are our greatest obstacle to it.
 
While we struggle though petty ambitions and squabbles, our town is engaged in a great struggle--a constant competition, not only with other communities locally but with communities across the world. Small towns from Norway to Nebraska are finding out ways to make their communities worthier of attention, investment, and success. We cannot just accept good enough. For our kids, for our families, for our businesses and our town, we must aim to make Grand Island a premier community in Western New York.
 
The poet, Robert Frost famously said, “A poem begins with a lump in the throat; a homesickness or a love sickness. It is a reaching-out toward expression; an effort to find fulfillment.” That’s where we are now. The Master Plan will take this longing and make it real. Or in the words of Frost, “A complete poem is one where an emotion has found its thought and the thought has found words.”
 
Don’t let them scare you. It’s just noise. We are headed in the right direction. And our plan will help stop bad development. It will give us a vision. It will kill fear with belief. Belief in who we already are and who we can be.   

With highest regards,

Nate