I’m feeling rather grumbly just now because several developers are putting large swaths of tract housing, more retail space, and other buildings around western and southern Amarillo. This irks me because 1) anyone who insists on building houses in a playa bottom should be thumped with the consequences stick until they see reason, 2) I prefer hawks and mockingbirds to the kind of development shown in the fancy drawings on the news, 3) I’d rather see infilling and all that downtown development that was SUPPOSED to have happened 15-20 years ago and that far too much tax money has been, in my opinion, squandered on not doing, and 4) I firmly believe that the property owners have every right to do with their land what they see fit, so long as it does not endanger anyone else. You can see where #4 causes my problem.
There are days when it strikes me that no one seems to look at the aggregate effect of development in each section. Ditto the larger municipality, as best I can tell. Each project gets approved without serious thought about how it will fit in with all the other pieces of the urban puzzle, until one morning, after three inches of rain falls overnight, the playas reappear and no one can figure out why the drainage is such a mess. It’s as if no one stops and goes, “Hmm, if they build 50 houses with 3000 square-feet of hard surface for runoff, that’s X amount of hardscape and Y amount of runoff for a half-inch rain. Now, we’ve also gotten a request for zoning for another residential and commercial district with A amount of buildings with an average of B square feet of hard surface that will also drain that direction and” (runs numbers) “Houston, we may be about to have a problem. Or need to require permeable paving, and less hardscape.”
The land belongs to the owners to do with as they wish. I fully support that, with the caveat that if what the landowner wants to do will endanger other people, the county or city should say, “Mm not so fast, please. You need more of a berm for that backyard high-power rifle range.” Or, “Wildlife conservation is a wonderful thing but your 2000 square-foot backyard is too small for a rhino, even with a ten-foot fence.” I also oppose building within playas, for groundwater as well as structural reasons. If it is not my land, I will speak up at planning and zoning meetings with the understanding that it is someone else’s property to use as they see fit (again, within safety limits).
As for downtown . . . thpppth. The way back, once-upon-a-time idea was an old-fashioned blend of residential and commercial properties, as had existed down there in the 1940s-50s. I like that idea a great deal. And then the last grocery store in the area was replaced with a wholesale furniture store. And the whole idea of building the not-a-ballpark MPEV got tacked on, and building a big convention center hotel, and parking garage to pay for the not-a-ballpark (or maybe not), and the developers from out-of-town got paid a considerable sum of money and have both fled the US (with several other municipalities also chasing them). The sense I get is that a swath of Amarillo’s development-minded folks forget that Field of Dreams was not a documentary. What if they build it and “they” don’t come? Then what does the city do?
Municipal politics and development – just as messy as the national version, but more touchy since you are far more likely to cross paths with your mayor (or alderman or the gal building the new subdivision) at the grocery store or a charity event than with the Speaker-of-the-House (at least in my world you are). And the people involved all really do seem to want what they think will be best for the city. Just, their best and my best are rather different. I’m not nearly as optimistic about building the nest and then planning on the bird arriving and bringing deer, trees, wildflowers, and gentle spring rains with it. To terribly mangle an already overly mixed metaphor.