After more than a year of study, the public will get its first look at the Vision Main Street Clarence plan at a public forum to be held Thursday February 16th from 7-8:30pm at the Clarence High School Library, located at 9625 Main Street at the corner of Main and Gunville.
There is a lot to this plan. When completed, the plan will be adopted by the town of Clarence into Master Plan 2030. Vision Main Street foresees a more intimate Main Street, with mixed use buildings closer to the road offering smaller shops and walkable and bike-friendly spaces.
Implementing study suggestions will require a number of changes to the Town code, coordination with the state Department of Transportation, and the support of lawmakers at local, county state and federal levels. A strong showing of public support on Thursday evening is important to the continued progress of this program.
With that in mind, here are five key things you need to know about Vision Main Street Clarence:
1. Nearly Seven Miles of Bike Lanes
A key element of this plan is the re-striping of Main Street, which would narrow the driving lanes and add bike lanes from one end of the Town to the other. Interestingly – because adding bike lanes is primarily just adding paint and doesn’t require any construction – this could be one of the first changes you will see on the new Main Street.
Since Main Street is a state highway, and because these lanes will help make the Town accessible by bike from other communities, this portion of the plan is likely to have widespread support both inside and outside of the Town. Witness the transformative effect that Buffalo has seen as it proceeds toward its goal of adding 150 miles of bike lanes by 2018. Bike lanes make an immediate impact.
2. Clarence IDA is Taking a Leadership Role
The idea of municipal-level IDAs has been under fire from several quarters in recent years. The Vision Main Street Clarence plan is an example of what a local IDA can do best. By providing funding for a broad-based, comprehensive plan to transform the Main Street Commercial District, the IDA is laying the groundwork for exactly the type of economic development that Clarence residents have been asking for. When the new Main Street vision is realized, the Clarence IDA will be right at the top of organizations deserving credit.
3. Younger Clarence Residents Need to Make Their Voices Heard
Any successful plan needs diversity of input to make sure that everyone’s are met. Vision Main Street Clarence is no different. Sure the plan is based on ideas that have proven successful elsewhere, and some mixed-use developments have already begun to work here. That said, changes to the way that we build the new Main Street will have the greatest impact years into the future. It’s our younger generations that will one day be living on the new Main Street and opening the shops and businesses that we are envisioning. We need to make sure that as this community becomes theirs that we’ve accounted for what they want and need.
4. Main Street Needs a Sewer District
It’s hard to believe that in 2017 most of Main Street in Clarence lacks something so basic as public sewers, but it’s true. And with the State Department of Environmental Conservation continuing to expand land requirements for on-site treatment, it’s clear that many of the most desirable features of the Vision Main Street plan will be dependent on access to public sewers.
The good news is that the federal government looks to be focused on infrastructure improvements. For the first time in nearly thirty years, a federal source of funds could be available to help build out public sewers. Planning is already underway at the Town for a sewer master plan, and we need to show community support for Main Street to be at the top of the list.
5. Clarence Schools are the Big Winners
The politics of school funding are opaque, to say the least.
For example, most Town residents don’t know that tax revenue from most everything built on the Clarence side of Transit Road for the last twenty years goes to support the Williamsville School District. That’s right, Walmart, BJs, Michael’s, and everything north of Sheridan Drive all the way to County Road are helping fund Williamsville schools and NOT Clarence schools.
The good news is that everything built on Main Street from Transit Road to the Pumpkin Farm generates tax dollars for the Clarence School District. Not only does the type of mixed-use development envisioned for the new Main Street generate the most tax dollars for the Town, but it can substantially increase funding to the Clarence Schools and still lower your property taxes.
This could well be the most important change to come from the Vision Main Street Plan – it will ensure a strong new source of funding for Clarence Schools for generations to come.