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In Wheatfield, development issues dominated 2006

Development, both commercial and residential, was the attraction that drew crowds to town meetings last year.

More precisely, the effects of development on roads, basements and classrooms were the collective issues that filled the Town Hall parking lot and raised the most furor, as residents questioned how continued building would impact traffic, drainage and school taxes.

It didn't matter if the project was a proposed theme park or one of many subdivisions planned in the rural town. Residents continued to scrutinize how it would impact the lives they already had set up in this quiet bedroom community.

The project that created the loudest reaction was The Town Homes at Shawnee Landing.

Controversy began to brew in mid-December, when about 30 neighbors from Shawnee Road came to a Town Board meeting to ask why officials let a housing project aimed to help the elderly and disabled come to include low-income families.
Subsequent meetings drew hundreds of residents, many of whom said they objected to such a project going up next door to homes they bought for $200,000 or more.
Although the town is taking steps to address the concerns, construction is continuing, and a residents' political action group plans a lawsuit. The eight-acre, church-sponsored project is sure to dominate discussions in the first part of 2007.

Shawnee Landing was not the only development that stirred interest in 2006.

The largest single commercial development proposal, the Magical Lands of Oz Theme Park & Resort Area, was brought under public scrutiny in May for its first public scoping session.

Although traffic and drainage were on the list of concerns, the No. 1 item was financing for the $750 million project. Residents were assured no public funding would go to the park, which could bring about $70 million a year in sales tax revenues.

A final environmental impact statement that addresses all of the concerns raised at the scoping session is expected soon. From there, the project goes back to the Planning Board.

Also last year, traffic congestion, drainage runoff, construction dirt and noise, retention ponds, school overcrowding, and the near-urbanization of a farm community were common complaints voiced against:

* Brookshire subdivision, a 92-lot development off Shawnee. Last January, concerns were heard on an environmental impact statement. A more detailed plan has yet to come back for review.

* Brookfield subdivision, a proposal that saw several revisions after residents showed up in force to send it back at least twice for changes to the original plans. The final design for the 85-lot development on Ward Road is expected to be reviewed by the Planning Board before it goes to the Town Board for approval.

* The huge Hillcrest subdivision, whose 211 single-family homes and 36 patio-type homes are planned on Errick Road. A hearing led to a request for another traffic study to be conducted while school is in session.

Even without development, traffic itself caused commotion in the rural neighborhoods marked with normally quiet two-lane roads. State routes, such as Ward and Shawnee roads, caused concerns among residents, as did access roads that feed them. Officials responded by reducing speed limits on Old Falls Boulevard, Schultz Street, Wildwing Drive, Hill Road, Trail's End, Herd Street and York Road following a series of neighborhood meetings.

Drainage issues kept the town engineer and Highway Department busy. The southern drainage project was completed, and routine maintenance of ditches became an ongoing chore.

Although most of the work has been completed, drainage will continue to be an issue as development in the town continues.


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