A quaint village, with its bookstore and post office, its village green by the train tracks, doesn’t happen by accident. It may look like it just fell out of a snow globe, but a community that has managed to retain its character circa 2017 is in fact the product of countless hours of zoning and planning board meetings – and sometimes, of some down and dirty in-fighting.
There’s a project brewing in the Village of Warwick that raises larger questions about how a village should grow without losing itself. This is the same question that has every other yard in Goshen displaying yea or nay Legoland signs, and neighbors in Monroe locking horns over the new Hasidic town of Palm Tree.
A longtime Warwick pub, Yesterday’s, lost its lease on Main Street and has proposed building a facility four times larger four blocks away, in the rear of the neighborhood on a three-acre empty lot. Well, almost empty. It’s in a flood plain so only part of the property is buildable—the part very, very close to the surrounding 16 houses. These people are alarmed at the prospect of the noise, lighting, delivery trucks, traffic, and bar crowds drinking on the outdoor seating decks ‘til 1:30 a.m.
The current zoning law does allow for such use. When the Village made zoning revisions a few years ago, creating protections for similar neighborhoods as businesses expanded, it overlooked this property. As a result, it’s likely that the neighborhood adjoining the new big box pub will slowly lose the quiet residential personality it has now.
As we see with Legoland, the glittering driver of “economic growth” is powerful and backed up by deep pockets and implied threats of lawsuits. Small village boards and planning boards with volunteer members are ill-suited to such confrontation.
The skirmish has become personal, pitting neighbors against neighbors. The restaurant in its current incarnation is a favorite of locals, who are irate that this friend is being attacked.
We’re all wrestling with the knotty question: how can a village grow and at what cost?
Is bigger and more always better? Unfortunately, the forums for exploring these matters in a civil fashion are missing. Comments at board meetings and letters to the editor usually create more heat than light. What to do? Daniel Mack