Being Kind

This sweet lamb was born recently on Caleb Scott’s farm on Harford Road, and is destined for a happy life munching grass under solar panels and giving fleece for local fiber production. I’ve spoken at length with Caleb and several other farmers to hear their concerns, not just about zoning but about life in general as a farmer in Caroline. I hope to share what I’ve learned with anyone who might be interested, here on my personal website. Meanwhile I’ve asked to join the new Caroline agriculture committee and I’m reaching out to the Town to suggest a committee on tourism as well. Maybe we can find creative ways to boost agriculture income for our farmers, while also reassuring other residents that the land and the environment here will be protected from outside exploitation. I am confident that there are solutions, if we all stay positive and listen with empathy.

To whomever posted the large sign on route 79, across from the Town Hall, saying that we have a war in Caroline and everyone needs to choose a side: I choose my side. My side is peace, kindness, creativity, and working together to find solutions that help everyone. I don’t want war in my beautiful hometown.

I have ordered (on my own initiative, not in any of my various roles around Brooktondale) a number of purple signs, to celebrate what I think is so special about Caroline: We are kind. (Even, I suspect, the angry sign-painters… maybe they are just having a tough time lately…) Caleb and Shari and Jean McPheeters already bought and distributed a good number of these, but I have more at my house. (488 Valley Rd. – call 607-708-0342 or email to arrange transfer. They cost me $5 each if anyone wants to contribute to the cause.)

Many people are coming together to try to be part of the solution, including my friend Maija who has created a facebook group (Caroline Zoning Discussion Group) for open and civil discussion on the topic of zoning.

Update: our neighbors who made the “we are at war” sign have since altered it to hide the part referring to war, and they have even incorporated one of my “Caroline is Kind” signs into the new design. I am very grateful.

Listening Sessions on Zoning, written by Emily on March 28th, 2022 (with the thought to publish it in the Old Mill, but then the Old Mill changed format)

The Zoning Commission has been hard at work, not just on a first draft of a potential zoning law, but also on a document that addresses frequently asked questions and now a second document that addresses common misperceptions. Both documents can be found here:

At the same time as the Zoning Commission is working on their draft, the members of the Town Board have been meeting in the three hamlets to hear comments and concerns from residents on the general topic of zoning (not on any specific language that is being considered by our zoning commission). The third listening session will be at the Brooktondale Fire Station on Saturday April 2nd from 1 to 3 pm.

Everyone is encouraged to give their feedback, and to bear in mind that our Zoning Commissioners and our Town Board members are all, essentially, volunteers, trying to do their best for the town. They would appreciate feedback (positive and negative) and questions and constructive suggestions.

One of these individuals shared the following information with me (and asks that I not share their name).

Somewhat lost in all the day-to-day arguing over "you can't tell me what to do on my land" and striving to correct false statements over what is in the (current, early draft) zoning proposal, are the underlying reasons for having zoning.

I respect the folks who are philosophically opposed to zoning of any sort; what I find troubling are all the folks opposed to zoning who make accusations of terrible things that not only aren't in the proposed plan, but for which there is zero support on the Zoning Commission for putting in the plan.

Zoning is not a foregone conclusion, but I think it is well worth developing a plan for Caroline and from what I see we will be able to come up with a good plan that is worth adopting. I supported adding language about zoning to the Comprehensive Plan and I supported the creation of a Zoning Commission because I think there are some good things that zoning can bring to the town.

For me, foremost among the possible reasons for adopting zoning is the ability to separate incompatible uses - that is, make sure that one person's land use does not negatively impact a neighbor's property value or ability to enjoy his or her land. Think about the difference of a noisy, or smelly, or heavily trafficked, or constantly brightly-lit use moving into an otherwise quiet residential or rural area versus moving into an area where the community feels such uses are appropriate (because such uses are already in place and/or are isolated from more sedate uses).

It has to do with viewing us as a community; it's not "everyone for themselves" but "we're all in this together" so let's figure out a few rules for living together.

The second biggest thing for me is limiting sprawl in the town. If we wish to preserve open space and a sense of "ruralness" in Caroline then I think we ought to have something that encourages development in a clustered, rather than scattered, way. The town is not about to be developed willy-nilly tomorrow, but putting something in place today is smarter than waiting a bunch of years until things have gotten out of hand. In addition, encouraging development to occur in clusters that are part of or adjacent to already-developed areas benefits the environment by limiting intrusion on wildlife habitat, wetlands and other important natural resources. And, of course, nodal development is more energy efficient (enabling a greater amount of pedestrian and bike access) than development that occurs all over the place.

Finally, it is unfortunately true that if there is a use that is considered "undesirable" to most folks, then people and businesses that want to set up such a use will go to un-zoned towns, because that is where they cannot be prevented from locating.