Daily Archives: June 21, 2007

Grading Geneseo

Bad news, folks. As I mentioned in last week’s column (below), the site selection folks from Applebee’s have identified Geneseo as a “C” community. They gave Henrietta an “A” and Canandaigua a “B.” We got a C, barely passing in this era of rampant grade inflation.

According to the standards established by the Institute of Transportation Engineers (ITE), Geneseo’s Route 20A gets a “C” level of service grade between intersections and a C, D, E, or F at most intersections.

Though the National Park Service does not give grades, it is concerned enough about the health of our National Historic Landmark District that we have been placed on its “watch” list. Likewise for the Environmental Protection Agency, which has identified Conesus Lake as an impaired body of water.

Add to these evaluations the County’s rejection of the Village’s proposed master plan and the strong opposition and open threats of litigation toward that plan by commercial developers, all resulting from that plan’s effort to rein in large scale retail development.

Running through these different evaluations is a clear pattern: retail developers and their supporters evaluate Geneseo based on its ability to deliver traffic (customers, dollars, sales tax revenue) to them. The consequences of this – for the quality of life of Geneseo residents, for the capacity of our infrastructure and the downstream costs of repairing it, for our historic heritage, for the health of our environment and our drinking water – are not their concern.

Retail developers want us to be Henrietta. Their vision of our future is a new big box replacing the Ames Plaza, a new big box between there and the Super Wal-Mart, and a new big box or two in the Gateway District. Their promise to us is that it will look nice. Miles of aisles, acres of free parking, gridlocked roads, but attractive facades and nice landscaping.

It was said again at Tuesday’s public hearing on the master plan that we needn’t worry, that Geneseo’s limits of growth had been reached, that the market had found its level, that there would be no more big boxes. I don’t believe it.

If Applebee’s thinks we’re a C market, it must also believe we’re on our way to earning a B or better. The vehement opposition of developers to our master plan suggests the same. They see a big “upside” to Geneseo, and they are willing to threaten and sue to realize that upside.

Sprawl begets sprawl. Sprawl chases cars, cars chase sprawl, and before you know it you’re in Henrietta. Read the road signs; we’re getting closer.