Tag Archives: planning

Buffalo Green Code: Upcoming Workshops

7 Feb

From the Green Code website:

The City of Buffalo is creating a “Green Code” to guide the rebuilding of our city for the next twenty years and beyond. We need citizens to be a part of the process. Plan to attend the upcoming workshop in your neighborhood. Our future depends on it.

It starts with a land use plan. That’s what the experts call it. Think of it as a development plan for rebuilding our city. It will guide public and private investment in every neighborhood across the city.

The plan makes our vision a reality. Citizens have already shared their vision for Buffalo inQueen City in the 21st Century: Buffalo’s Comprehensive Plan (2006). It describes the strategy for rebuilding Buffalo. Land use plans will fill in the details of how to make the vision a reality in every part of the city.

The plan becomes the Buffalo Green Code. The land use plan will be the basis for the creation of a new zoning ordinance known as the Buffalo Green Code.  It will give Buffalo’s Comprehensive Plan the force of law by governing what property owners can build on their land.  It will give the plan some “teeth.”

The Buffalo Green Code protects your community. You care about your property, how it looks and fits in with your neighborhood. You want your neighbors to do the same. The Buffalo Green Code will put in place rules that will bring added harmony to how our neighborhoods look and feel. That makes everyone’s property worth more.

It’s all about what “fits.” Everyone reaps rewards when buildings and their uses fit the character of a neighborhood. Storefront retail and residential streets can go together. Apartment buildings and offices can go together. But uses that generate traffic, noise, or pollution can diminish the value of neighboring properties. The Buffalo Green Code will protect us from that.

Strong neighborhoods are beautiful neighborhoods. A building design that doesn’t fit can damage property values as much as a land use that doesn’t fit. The Buffalo Green Code will also control what buildings look like and how they relate to the street and their neighbors.

A land use plan guides government, too. When any level of government invests money in roads, highways, transit, bridges, water and sewer systems, parks and community centers, they look to land use plans for guidance. Buffalo’s land use plan will guide investment in infrastructure to make the city more efficient and to make room to create jobs.

Predictability gives everyone confidence. Home owners will be more likely to invest in their property and businesses will be more likely to invest in jobs when they know for sure what the land use plan intends for their neighborhood. Because the Buffalo Green Code will make development more predictable it will make it more likely.

It’s a “green” century. New rules for building our city need to make room for the jobs of the future. But they also need to help us use less energy, do less driving, protect the quality of air, water and soil, and improve the quality of life in our neighborhoods.

Make your voice heard. The best plan for Buffalo will be the one that brings the greatest rewards to the community. That can only happen if the community makes their values, priorities, and concerns heard in the planning process. Don’t wait until the plan and zoning ordinance have already become law. Let us know now. Participate in the  workshop in your neighborhood!

Governing Niagara Falls

10 Sep


Governing Magazine examines Niagara Falls, NY and why it sucks so hard.  Among the many fixable reasons:

There are a lot of reasons for these differences, not least geography: the Canadian side gets by far the most dramatic view of the Falls. But another, less visible, force has had at least as great a say in the two cities’ fortunes: a disparity in governance that has put the two sides on very different trajectories. Simply put, Niagara Falls, Ontario, has benefited from decades of decisions by regional and provincial policy makers who have built on one another’s work. Niagara Falls, New York, has lurched through short-sighted, incompetent and sometimes corrupt municipal governance, failed stabs at regionalism, and flailing, inconsistent and outright destructive approaches by various arms of state government.

“They are way behind the curve on this side of the river,” says William Hudnut, an urban policy scholar and a student of the situation in Western New York. “When you cross the bridge into Canada, there’s a world of difference: a comprehensive plan over there, while the state of New York is floundering.”

Niagara Falls, New York, is not unique in this respect. Fragmented governance has bestowed serious problems on many struggling U.S. cities, especially in the Rust Belt states that surround the Great Lakes. “We all have this political organization that was modeled after New York and Pennsylvania and that platted the politics of the Midwest all the way to Minnesota: Let’s have local government close to the people, so let’s have kajillions of jurisdictions,” says John Austin, who runs the Brookings Institution’s Great Lakes Economic Initiative from the University of Michigan.

Read the whole thing.

Random Musings For A New Year

31 Dec

Buffalo1877.JPG

With the holiday season nearing it’s closure and a new year upon us, I thought it was time to cobble together a random musings post which details where my mind is at right now as both a blogger and Citizen of Buffalo. It’s one part recap of 2007 and one part resolutions for 2008…

  • I thought 2007 would be the year in which Buffalo made some tremendous strides both politically and economically. Unfortunately, it was a lot like 2006, 2005, and 2004; Iterative progress which doesn’t amount to much of a “revolution”. Positive developments can be found if you look hard enough. However, when I look back on 2007, I don’t see much progress made on addressing the massive problems of poverty, urban blight, racism, vacant properties, and failing public education system that engulf vast swaths of our urban environment. I also see little progress being made on the statewide level to address our overbearing business costs, over regulation, excessive personal tax rates, corruption, abuse of taxpayer monies, unaccountable authorities, and unresponsive elected officials. It doesn’t inspire much hope for 2008. Hey, way to kick things off with a tidal wave of optimism, eh?
  • I can’t decide which politician has been a bigger disappointment to the people of Buffalo, Byron Brown or Eliot Spitzer. Frankly, I voted for neither, so I can’t say I’m surprised they have been massive disappointments. It seems as if Mayor Brown is looking to create as little ruckus as possible while he waits for Rep. Louise Slaughter to retire. Congress is calling, don’t want to rock the boat too much and piss off any potential constituencies! Spitzer seems to lack the ability to lead or build consensus. This shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone who was an observer of his behavior as Attorney General. State Senator Joe Bruno has effectively neutered Spitzer and without a massive Mea Culpa, I don’t see a way for Spitzer to rebuild political capital to fight back or accomplish any of his ambitious agenda.
  • The proxy war for the Democratic Party in the City of Buffalo continues unabated between Sam Hoyt and Byron Brown. Shifting allegiances in party politics, control of the Common Council, control of district committeemen, control of patronage power, control of party messaging and candidates…all of it up for grabs as Hoyt and the Party square off against Byron and Grassroots. What does any of this matter in the grand scheme of things? Absolutely nothing and is a total distraction from the business of the people. See my first point about why 2007 was like any other year…
  • Tell Bashar Issa to give me a call when he gets something significant done over at the Statler. Until then, I’d like it if he’d stop with the grand proclamations about his massive design plans to reinvigorate the entirety of Buffalo proper. He is a walking silver bullet plan to the denizens of “New Buffalo” and it is growing execeedingly tedious. To belabor his efforts and support him vociferously every time he farts in our general direction makes us look small and insignificant.
  • Piggybacking on that, I’d like to define the difference between “efforts” and “results” for people in this town as it seems as if we are so disconnected from someone actually getting something done that we often confuse the two…
    • Results – Something tangible that comes from the conscious application of effort. Something to be celebrated.
    • Efforts – The work done to achieve a particular end. Not worth celebrating.
  • The reason that Niagara Falls has failed to derive any tangible benefits from their Casino has little to do with the actual casino itself. It has everything to do with incompetent and corrupt elected leadership and a lack of planning to build anything around the casino. How is it Barry Snyder’s problem that NFR and Cordish have done absolutely nothing with the property they own? People might go outside the casino if there was a place for them to go or something for them to do! The casino has generated millions in tax revenue for the city and they have done nothing with it to build or promote spinoff businesses around it.
  • Buildings, museums, and a “sense of place” do not create economic development. Pro-business policies, lower tax rates, and increased density do create economic development. It is not a chicken v. egg argument…the artistic culture and beautiful buildings we celebrate here and declare as our meal ticket are a vestigial tail of our early economic boom times. When we again increase density by luring people into our region with the promise of decent schools, lower taxes, and jobs…I’ll give a shit about curb cuts, mixed use retail, faux two story buildings, and the constant cycle of business openings/closings on two streets in Buffalo.
  • My Buffalonian of The Year award goes to Michael Gainer of Buffalo ReUse, not sure if his inclusion in this list of rants is a good or bad thing for him. However, each time I get the opportunity to catch up with Michael, I am impressed by his enthusiasm, energy, leadership skills, and results driven organization. He leads a talented group of volunteers who are bound and determined to take the communal liability of vacant properties and turn them into a model for job training, community pride, leadership development, and sustainable reuse. He stays out of the politics and focuses on results. However you can, please support their mission with a tax deductible donation, purchase of building materials at their new showroom, or volunteering your time.
  • I am optimistic about Chris Collins. I will not be holding him to an arbitrarily high standard of “non-politician” nor will I be troubled if his first year in office is spent getting his feet wet and he makes a few missteps. I voted for him as I thought he would bring a “think different” approach to the office of Erie County Executive. If he is going to be successful, he’ll have to play the game of politics on some levels to accomplish anything. He is dealing with a partisan and entrenched legislature that the citizens resoundingly support (based on vote totals) and he is going to need to work with an overbearing and uncooperative Control Board to create some semblance of progress. It’s gonna be a tough year.
  • I’m going to spend more time in 2008 documenting progress in Buffalo’s suburbs and the region as a whole. I am exhausted by the endless discussions and debates with the “creative class” when it comes to issues of progress, preservation, and economic development in our urban core. However, if someone wants to talk about a regional master plan for the waterfront, economic development, consolidation of IDA’s, rapid transit, abolition of the BMHA, regional housing plans, regional governmental consolidation of services and operations, count me in.
  • I’m hoping 2008 is the year in which we all stop trying so hard to agree and we start demanding tangible results from our legislators, councilmen, elected and non-elected leaders, and community activists. Everyone should be open to criticism and we should all demand better.
  • I’m hoping more people call me an asshole. I’m already on several political and cultural blacklists in this town due to my opinions and actions…let’s close that loop and make me persona non grata anywhere stupid ideas are thrown about.
  • Finally, something I’ve been wanting to say to the citizens of Buffalo for a long, long time…inspired by the words of Tyler Durden.  Buffalo, you are not a beautiful and unique snowflake. You are the same decaying northeastern urban city as found elsewhere. We do not have the market cornered on beautiful architecture, sense of place, good food, or anything else. We all love the shared context of having grown up here and we are proud to call our city home. It may be news to you, but the people of Chicago, Austin, Portland, Memphis, Louisville, Indianapolis, Dallas, and hundreds of other cities feel the same as you do…except for the fact that they are building, growing, and economically relevant to contemporary America. Meanwhile, we spend our time here looking to copy how other cities do things (ignorant of our own political/economic realities) and/or looking backward to a time when things were “good”. We need to shed this feeling that we are facing some sort of special situation and focus on creating wealth and looking ahead instead of behind. That is what will create a “New Buffalo”.

    Tielman, Continued

    10 Dec

    tielmanproposal.jpg

    In our ongoing attempt to tag team issues with our differing approaches and attitudes, BuffaloPundit posted a comprehensive and intellectual response to Tim Tielman’s WBFO interview. During the 20 minute interview, Tielman stated his desire to move the proposed second span of the Peace Bridge upriver, re-route the I-190 onto abandoned railroad tracks, and build teacup rides underneath the Skyway.

    Buffalo, V2.0, Designed by Tim Tielman.

    Well, no intellectual response here…seeing as how I have limited time, let me dispense with some quick analysis of his I-190 plan in bulleted fashion.

    • I’m sure that Tim is a nice guy and he is certainly well-intentioned, however, I can’t imagine meeting someone in Buffalo that I disagree with more often than I do with him.
    • The base premise of re-routing what amounts to two to three miles of the I-190 away from Riverside into the Tonawanda Rail Corridor seems like a good idea on the surface. Until, of course, one contemplates just what would be involved with such an endeavor. Seeing as how we are currently celebrating the 20th anniversary of planning and design for two miles of roadway on the Outer Harbor (where no one lives), I find it to be a tall task to convince the thousands of people who will now have a highway running through their backyards to sacrifice for the better of the waterfront.
    • The people who live along the rail corridor will undoubtedly be up in arms over the idea of running an Interstate through their backyards and will fight the idea to the death. An assumption? Not really…have you just moved to Buffalo? Welcome to NIMBY/BANANA central, baby.
    • Years of EIS, surveying, public comment periods, design, phases of design, further public comment periods, lawsuits, challenges, and arguments will take the better part of a generation to achieve consensus on such a plan.
    • Without an idea of cost estimates and no political will to accomplish a massive highway project that could run into the hundreds of millions, what is the direct benefit to the public? Governments tend to approach these types of projects using a cost/benefit analysis. Will it drastically better the lives of the majority of people in the region to invest a significant chunk of available highway monies into such a reconfiguration? If arguing that the idea of traffic = bad, are we not simply shifting the problem?
    • Congress tends to fund projects of this scope in areas where there is a significant demand or economic significance. Highway expansion and removal projects are typically reserved for areas where there will be tangible benefits to the region as a whole. Dallas, Denver, Phoenix, Atlanta, Seattle, etc. are all competing for federal highway dollars and have a definite need, becaus they are, ya know, growing.
    • What does this do to reconnect the downtown street grid that is currently separated by the I-190? Nothing. After all, why redesign roadways in an effort to improve the economic and development climate when you can redesign them so we can have yet another park on the waterfront.
    • As an aside, rather than planning pie in the sky proposals, can Tielman come up with some plan to move the sewage plant somewhere else? The stretch of the I-190 near the old Breckenridge toll booths, Squaw Island Park and Scajaquada stinks to absolute high heaven. Talk about past planning boners…
    • Finally, can we stop with the endless piecemeal proposals to rehabilitate Buffalo’s Waterfront? Can we build one master regional plan with sections devoted to the waterfront, highways, road improvements, infrastructure, public utilities, businesses, parks, etc? This is growing quite tedious that every swingin’ dick with a pencil and a cocktail napkin can get airplay for a cockamamie idea. We’re all guilty.

    In the end, this project can be filed under “wouldn’t it be nice” rather than “need to have it”. As always it comes back to the same issue…it’s the economy, stupid.

    The presence or non-presence of a roadway along the waterfront is not an inhibitor to local economic development. There, I said it. The economy is an inhibitor to waterfront development.

    If we focused instead on fixing our local economy, lowering our collective tax burden, incenting companies to build here, and creating jobs, there would be an impetus to design and implement such projects. Tielman’s plan is “cart before the horse” as they say…

    Until we get to the point where Buffalo and Western New York are again economically viable businsess locations, projects like this will simply be fodder for blogs and public radio.

    Wow, that wasn’t very quick, now was it?