This past weekend, my son and I were driving up Central Avenue, and he said, as we approached construction, "is that ugly or what?" I said to him that I thought it was beautiful, and he stared at it and said, "well maybe when the exterior is on it, it will be." Now, he was talking the aesthetics of a steel girder building and not the idea of development, but it does beg the question.
We started talking about the beauty of development. He is a teen, so having a philosophical discussion about growth and development (or most topics) is not in the cards, but it is good to educate him, so we had that discussion. I explained that Dover being almost 400 years old has seen many phases of growth and development and that in many ways we are entering a new phase of redevelopment. Much of our infrastructure, in the way of streets and utilities is set. We don't have large tracts of pristine land that can be master planned out. We don't have multiple options for blank slate growth, but we do have cowpaths that became roads, and we do have the requisite history and character that we need to respect that comes with the alteration of cowpaths to development.
Dover has a lot of opportunity ahead of us. We are fortunate to have people involved with the City, on a staff, volunteer and resident level who care about the community and think positively about its growth. We are also fortunate to have people involved with formulating our community vision and character that respect the past and want to shape the future to mimic and embrace that past. In many communities we see efforts to block change and future development. I think in Dover we have been able to understand the idea that change in inevitable, but change in character is not to be taken for granted.
What I mean by that, is that we have a philosophy in planning in Dover where we recognize that growth will come. People have the right to develop their property and we can't as a community tell them no, no more than we can shut roads entering Dover and say we want no new residents. Property rights are respected and encouraged here. All the same, we see that the Community has a role in developing regulations that guide growth and development. The first step in surmising those regulations is to understand the community character.
So, what I need to do is encourage my son to be part of that dialog. Teenager or not, this is his community too. We all need to learn early on that we have a voice and we have a role in speaking that voice to be part of the community visioning. Also, I want to teach him, and others, that the vision isn't a once every 10 years activity. We need to be constantly mindful of the fluidity of life and be aware that we are always evolving and we can't sit back and let change overtake us. We need to be part of the change because it is coming.
In planning our community, the worst thing we can do is say, well someone else is an expert, I don't matter. The second worst thing we can do is say, we've done this before, we don't need to continue to work on it; been there, done that. We need to think of Dover, the community, as our house.
You always have a list of projects to work on around the house. Some are reoccurring (Take out the trash once a week, clean the gutters in the fall), and some are one time things (build an addition on the back). There is always a reason to be involved and aware of the world around you at home. The same goes for your community.