Sunday, May 14, 2006

Rockland Planning Problems and Wal-Mart

As yesterday's Rockland Journal News points out the nature of county governance in Rockland makes proper planning extremely difficult. The reason is that a comprehensive plan runs up against New York State law that "gives towns and villages-and not counties-the authority over planning and zoning."

Yet Rockland legislative chair Harriet Cornell is moving forward with a county plan be cause she sees overdevelopment and concomitant traffic as key issues. Cornell believes that the new county effort and the work of the towns and villages is "complementary" and not "competitive." "She also said that more elected officials, and appointed town and village planning and zoning board members, were interested in better planning."

All of which is very nice sounding but altogether too theoretical. Case in point: Wal-Mart in Monsey. Here is a huge regional center that will impact all of the towns and villages in a ten mile area but only the town of Ramapo will get to review and act on the proposal. This certainly doesn't sit well with neighboring Spring Valley. And we're sure that Airmont and Suffern would welcome the opportunity to weigh in on the development, particularly on the manner in which the Walmonster will impact their communities.

What needs to be done is for the legislature itself to convene hearings on the environmental, economic and social impact of this huge retail project. It needs especially to use its own resources to evaluate the Wal-Mart proposal and, if necessary, develop some safeguards to prevent the development from wrecking local communities and small businesses. This is too big a deal for just one town to be given full authority to approve or disapprove.