“How many legs does a dog have if you call his tail a leg? Four. Saying that a tail is a leg doesn’t make it a leg.” — Abraham Lincoln
. . . But if you keep on insisting his tail a leg – people will start to believe you.
This is the rationale behind the creation of the term: “rural sprawl” — a term designed to obscure the truth.
Since this chapter focuses on a single example, and the area’s Town and County comprehensive plans will be subject to a detailed examination in other chapters; I will merely outline the housing agenda in Tompkins County.
Ithaca; named the “Best College Town in America” is also reported as being the “8th most expensive city in the U.S. to raise a family.” The ability of landlords to rent a 3 or 4-bedroom apartment to students for far more than families can afford to pay, along with the high property taxes; have pushed out the college and business workers; and artificially forced the creation of urban sprawl bedroom communities in the outlying rural towns and villages.
While Ithaca planners designate block after block of their wood frame houses as historically important and surround the city with 3,800 acres of “conservation land” — the rural town of Lansing has 0 acres of conservation land; and its secluded 33-acre Salmon Creek Bird Sanctuary has been turned into a sanctuary for drug dealers and drug users through County cut-backs.
The best way for Ithaca to preserve its gentrified way of life – while expanding the colleges and increasing their importance as a business center – was to markedly increase the size and density of their urban sprawl “satellites.”
This is where the concept of “Rural Sprawl” comes in.
These sprawl bedroom communities became “identified” as Development Focus Areas for “compact residential development” – the County adopted a plan that categorized rural Lansing as an Emerging Node with the need for a municipal water and sewer infrastructure to support additional development in the area.
The awkward problem of urban sprawl – was suddenly the solution.
Increasing Tompkins County’s urban resettlement was now the only answer to “rural sprawl”: the new “Red Menace” of rural residents destroying the land, water, and future of the county.
[An interesting attribution for a rural community that had done just the opposite for over 200 years.]
The fact that “rural sprawl” and its attendant denunciations appear 11 times in the Town of Lansing Comprehensive Plan is not surprising — Cornell not only wrote the Town’s Agricultural Plan; it supplied all the planning for the Town’s Comp Plan as well.
By 2021; Lansing’s native residents were completely disenfranchised and marginalized – with incomers taking control of the government. This is how Urban Colonialism works in Tompkins County.
The “rural sprawl” argument is a patronizing pastiche that any rigorous questioning would expose; but in a dictatorship, even a pseudo-democratic one, you can’t change anything . . . and you don’t ask questions.
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