If Vanderburgh County wants “smart and sustainable growth”, then University Parkway MUST have a master plan!
The Evansville & Vanderburgh County Comprehensive Plan has goals to include “arranging land uses to create a pattern of orderly development” and to “value neighborhoods”, and to “preserve the character and aesthetics of the neighborhood environment” and “in residential neighborhoods, exclude incompatible uses that would alter the character of the area”. The Plan outlines the advantages of a neighborhood planning and development program to include an emphasis that neighborhoods are an integral part of the quality of life in the City and County, it provides an opportunity for involvement by neighborhood residents and, and allows residents who best know their area to identify their neighborhoods improvement needs and the actions required for solving those needs.
The Comprehensive plan is VERY clear on how development should be approved thru the following criteria:
- suitability of the property for the uses allowed under the current zoning ordinance,
- existing zoning and uses of surrounding properties,
- existing and future character of the adjacent area,
- type and extent of positive and/or detrimental impacts to adjacent properties or the community at large,
- impact of the proposal on public services, utilities, and facilities,
- benefits to the public health, safety and welfare, compared to any hardship imposed,
- relative conformance of the proposal to the land use plan and the goals, objectives, and policies; and
- Consideration of responsible development and growth as well as any other relevant information.
We all want to avoid the same pitfalls and errors that occurred along Burkhardt Road and Green River Road, areas rezoned and developed in piece-meal fashion, where parcels of land were rezoned a few acres at a time. There was little to no care in making sure the developments were planned with some sort of cohesiveness. The University Parkway rezoning is NOT avoiding unplanned urban sprawl. Putting the commercial tract requested is a leap-frog move from the closest other commercial tract (Pearl Drive). The University Parkway rezoning is Burkhardt Road all over again, where parcels of land are divided up willy-nilly a few acres at a time, which would only lead to unplanned development and congestion.
The emphasis on “smart growth” has developed as a response to sprawl, haphazardly planned, low density development interspersed with strip commercial and retail development linked by a vast street and highway system that overemphasizes automobile. Driven largely by poor planning and lack of adherence to our Comprehensive Plan, sprawl has become increasingly prevalent in our community. You would think by now we would be fully aware that sprawl exacerbates traffic problems, diminishes open space and natural resources, and costs the community money.
There are a number of negative impacts associated with sprawl, including increased pollution from longer commutes and heavier auto use; higher costs for taxpayers and businesses to build new infrastructure; and continued erosion of open space and sensitive environmental areas. We are recommending a Master Plan for University Parkway to achieve the following goals: combat sprawl; provide more certainty in determining where new development should or should not occur; make more efficient use of land that has already been developed, including a strong focus on job creation and housing established in urban areas; and establish a legal and procedural framework that will create the desired certainty regarding development and send the right economic signal to investors. A University Master plan would accomplish this.
The inescapable conclusion on the University Parkway rezoning is simple. Growth in a community is never easy. But the bottom line is that any decisions on University Parkway will affect each and every successive generation that follows us. We only have ONE chance to get this correct the first time, and it time that our elected and appointed officials start listening to us! We have been polite and respectful and offered numerous times to assist and join in the planning process. We have offered a number of presentations that show how smart and sustainable growth can be achieved along University Parkway, and yet we have been told that the County Commissioners “are not sure what we want”. What we want is to break free of the cycle of development that is unplanned.
We want to plan for the future along University Parkway, which will preserve and enhance Vanderburgh County’s quality of life, ensure the wise and efficient use of our natural and financial resources, and make government more effective and accountable by reforming our systems of governance, planning, and public finances
We want a plan for University Parkway to promote a prosperous and livable community by making existing communities vital and healthy places for all residents to live, work, obtain a quality education and raise a family.
A plan for University Parkway will provide better housing and transportation opportunities by providing efficient transportation alternatives and a range of housing choices affordable to all residents, without jeopardizing farmland, open space, wildlife habitat and natural resources.
A “master plan” for University Parkway will conserve open spaces, natural resources and the environment by focusing new development in existing communities in areas appropriately planned for growth while protecting air and water quality, conserving wildlife habitat, natural landscapes, floodplains and water recharge areas and providing green space for recreation and other amenities.
We want a “master plan” to protect Vanderburgh County and our agricultural and forest landscapes, which will prevent farm, range and forest lands from sprawl and the pressure to convert land for development.
We only have one chance to get University Parkway right, so we are hopeful the Vanderburgh County Commissioners will heed our voice and undertake the corridor study to develop a master plan for University Parkway.