Between 1950 and 1970, the population of historic Pittsford, seven miles east of downtown Rochester, quadrupled from 5,000 to 20,000. It was predicted that the number of residents would eventually triple from there, to 60,000.
But the town population never got much higher. It's now 27,000, and "we'll probably never get to 30,000," Village of Pittsford Mayor Robert Corby told a Smart Growth workshop at Buffalo State College Tuesday.
His community on the Erie Canal put the brakes on development to save the semirural charm that had made it a desirable place to live since the late 1700s -- before Rochester existed -- Corby said.
"Our community looks pretty much the same as it always has," the mayor said during a panel discussion labeled, "Elected Officials Look at Smart Growth."
Pittsford and the Village of Hamburg were cited as examples of "walkable communities" that have preserved their small-town character by resisting the pressure to grow willy-nilly.
The turning point for Pittsford came in the early 1970s, when an 1826 hotel at the village center was threatened with demolition to make way for something new.
The controversy gave rise to an organization called Historic Pittsford, and in 1971 the village became one of the first anywhere to establish a preservation ordinance. One of the key provisions was the establishment of a 2,000-acre preservation zone around the village that included existing farmland.
As a result, visitors pass through rural landscapes on three of four approaches to the village, Corby said.
Largely because of such defensive measures, property values in Pittsford are the highest in Monroe County, he said.
"You can maintain a livable environment. It's a challenge, but you can do it," Corby said.
Citizen participation is all-important, said Toni Cudney, Orchard Park supervisor.
"You have to have people behind you," she said. "The key is to do the planning, put together a comprehensive plan and get the community involved."
Joining Corby and Cudney on the panel were Stanley Keysa, chairman of the Town of Lancaster Planning Board, and Michael Cerrone, a member of the Village of Hamburg Zoning Code Revision Committee. The moderator was R. Bruce Wilson, executive vice president of the Buffalo Niagara Association of Realtors.