Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Keep the Big Picture in Mind

This article was submitted to the LongmeadowBuzz by Betsy Port- a long time resident of Longmeadow.

Everyday we deal with details and the minutia of life. Groceries, laundry, work, dishes, email corres- pondence and phone calls.  We run errands and drive in circles getting it all done in time for the deadlines we set for ourselves. It is time to reassess our priorities and look at the big picture. What will Longmeadow be like in thirty years? Envision 2046 in your mind… Where will you be? Will I be in New England hanging out with the grandchildren I don’t even have yet?

A 2004 report entitled Longmeadow Faces the Future: The Longmeadow Long Range Plan summarized efforts by both community residents and leaders to create a plan for the future.

There is also a new Long Range Plan Survey that town residents are being asked to complete. 

Check it out! Fill out the answers! It’s time to revise the plan. Have your priorities changed in the last 20-30 years? The values and goals of parents are surely different as younger generations mature. Longmeadowites are responsible for helping our leaders make decisions that will affect the future. How can we cut costs and also increase income? We are 96% residential and do not have the ability to keep increasing real estate taxes.

Let’s take a ride on a magic carpet high above the trees! How does the Town of Longmeadow look from above the treetops? It sure looks green from plane rides I have taken to Bradley as we circle overhead. Does Longmeadow look like a rural suburb or a crowded area near a city? It depends on your view! There is somewhat of a split personality I see that was created by the sometimes-awkward development of our locale. We started as a little farming village within the city. We then became a nearby suburb when Springfield developed from a Western settlement in the 1600s-1700s to a true residential area. Did we need to build six schools? Did we need two town centers? We have a special historical center surrounding a typical New England Town Green and then a second town shopping center built in the 1960s that is undergoing a major renovation this year. Times are constantly changing! When we moved here twenty years ago I felt like I was entering a time warp! This place was not as up to date as the suburban communities I lived in near Boston and Manhattan. Many changes have come to Longmeadow that have improved and updated services and facilities here. The new High School and three elementary school additions were all overdue. Now we need to look ahead and see the future. Can we keep the things we value most?

Please go to the Town website and fill out the Long Range survey as soon as possible. Tell all of your neighbors and friends! Let the leaders of our town know what you need and want. They cannot read our minds, but eagerly await the results of the survey. At least 700 people have already completed the online questions and Richard Foster; Town Chair of the Select Board hopes to double that number. Get involved and be heard! I recently had the opportunity to discuss the town’s future with Mr. Foster and I have a new understanding of just how complicated it is to balance all the factors in developing a comprehensive plan for our collective future. We are lucky to have such a fine group of leaders in our select board with the addition of Bill Low as a new member. Their roles can be difficult as they weigh and balance all the issues. The truth is this – we need to increase our income without adding a huge tax burden to the residents. Let’s get creative and discuss the possibilities.

There are many priorities to consider. Will newcomers want to move to our town? How will the Springfield casino and highway construction impact us? Where will the DPW be relocated? The dump and recycling center can stay where they are in the flood plain, but the storage and office aspects of the DPW must move. Will the Wolf Swamp Fields, Grand Meadows or the former synagogue land on Williams Street become possible solutions? Where will the senior center be built? Should we build senior housing on undeveloped land? Stay tuned for a discussion of the options. I think preserving our parks and open space are the top priority. Participants at the Town Meeting do not want to forfeit our parkland. We do not need shortsighted fixes. Clear-headed solutions are possible if we listen to each other without getting too emotional.

Remember – Always Keep the Big Picture in Mind!

Betsy Port/ Longmeadow, MA