The World We Pass On: February 2022

Trading Short-Term Growth for Long-Term Liabilities
An Editorial by John Conway

HURLEYVILLE, February 2022 — All across America, many areas are building in a way that squanders precious resources that should be used to make our communities more prosperous, but instead trades short-term growth for long-term liabilities.
In a nutshell, that’s the message being conveyed by a growing grass-roots movement called “Strong Towns,” which maintains there is a better way for communities to grow.
It might at first seem like this problem—and therefore the potential solution– is applicable only to big cities, but a closer look at what’s happening here in Hurleyville right now suggests otherwise.
The proposed Gan Eden development, slated to be built on the old Columbia Hotel property, has all the earmarks of just such a project: It is much bigger than anything else in the community– too big for the location, it will use too much of the available natural resources, and it is a radical change that promises little upside to the existing community and its residents.
For example, the demand for potable water inherent in a development of that size is bound to stress the available supply, and negatively impact current residents and businesses. The run-off from the paved areas in the development is sure to create problems in an area that already suffers flooding during heavy rains and snow melts. The traffic generated by the new residents of the proposed development will drastically alter the typically tranquil nature of the areas roadways.
The Gan Eden project as proposed would be the very definition of disruptive change.
The tremendous revival of the hamlet of Hurleyville over the past ten years has been achieved primarily through the adaptive reuse and repurposing of existing buildings, most often one at a time. That tried-and-true method of redevelopment helps ensure long-term resilience of the community.
The proposed Gan Eden development does not.
Because its scale is out of proportion to the existing community, because its design is inappropriate for the rural nature of its location, because the natural resources it will demand will negatively impact existing stakeholders, and because incremental growth—as opposed to massive development—leads to a more stable and prosperous community, The Hurleyville Sentinel cannot support the Gan Eden development as it is currently proposed. There is simply too little upside from the project to offset the potential risks.
We think Hurleyville—and the town of Thompson– would fare much better adhering to the “Strong Towns” model of paced, incremental development rather than recklessly trading short-term growth for long-term liabilities.