Monday, April 21, 2008

Best Laid Plains

I’m not at all that close to the situation, but I keep seeing articles in the SJ-R that suggest that Pleasant Plains officials are genuinely and enthusiastically concerned about rapid economic and population growth in their town. The main reason seems to be that because they are getting a sewage treatment facility and sewer lines, suddenly masses of people and loads of business are going to want to relocate there.

We used to live in Plains. It was a nice quiet place to live but it’s down the two-lane highway a piece and not really close to anything. It’s not an unbearable commute to Springfield, but one of the reasons we saw a benefit to moving from Plains to the west side of Springfield, was that we could get more house just from the savings on gas for our work commutes. And that was in 2001 before gas prices exploded. I would hate to be commuting from there now.

For that and other reasons (lots of people prefer not to live amongst the corn stalks, and the traffic on 2-lane highway 125 to and from Plains during the morning and evening commutes is already horrible, for example) I don’t see Pleasant Plains becoming overwhelmed with new residents and businesses. Sewers are great and all (believe me I’ve had to deal with many septic systems in my life, including the one at our old house in Plains) but they just aren’t a big deal-maker for most people. Businesses, yes, do often need a good sewer system to operate, but I still don’t see the incentive for many to locate in Plains.

Update: To be clear, I’m glad Pleasant Plains is getting a sewage system and I’m sure it will generate some growth in the community, but I don’t think the town is going to be facing so many growth problems that task forces and planning committees need agonize over how to control it. On the other hand, better safe than sorry, everyone needs a hobby, etc, etc.


Anonymous said...

You are overlooking another factor, which is that families with school-age kids will head that direction regardless of gas prices if 1) housing is cheaper, 2) property taxes are lower and 3) they find the Plains school district preferable to 186 or other area districts.
Some other time, you might want to address the issue of how much of a part schools and their real or perceived quality play in urban and suburban sprawl.

Dave said...

Yes, I think the school district plays a big part in people choosing to live in and around Plains. However…I’m not sure what the exact numbers are, but a very large portion, if not majority (and I suspect it is a majority) of Pleasant Plains students don’t live in Plains itself. PP students living on the northwest side of Springfield and in all the hinterland in between Springfield and Pleasant Plains would be unaffected by the town’s new sewer system.

So, to the extent that families are drawn to the PPSD, that doesn’t necessarily translate into growth for the town of Pleasant Plains itself. In fact the elementary and middle schools are in Farmingdale, about half way between Springfield and Pleasant Plains. Only the high school is located in the town and if a new one is ever built (the current one is pretty old) it may well be located in Farmingdale too. Even today the town of Pleasant Plains is in the far western part of the school district. If the high school moved out of town, Plains would just become slightly more irrelevant.

As for moving to Plains for cheaper housing, believe me, that is offset by the price of commuting to Springfield, for work, shopping and entertainment. For example, there is no grocery store in Plains. The nearest food store (other than the Casey’s gas station) is a very small store in Ashland, five miles away. You really have to come to Springfield for that. Yes, housing is a bit cheaper there but not so much as to make it a windfall in cost of living savings when driving is factored in.