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Author advises smart development, more trees for Penn Yan

    PENN YAN—Author Thomas Hylton offered advice to Penn Yan on ways to make the village more healthy and natural looking, Friday, Nov. 2.
    Hylton’s presentation “Save Our Land, Save Our Towns” was in connection with the Saturday, Nov. 3, charrette planning session.  He is also president of a non-profit corporation with the same name that serves as an advocate of traditional towns.  Nearly 40 people attended the Friday presentation, where Hylton outlined what he has helped accomplish in his hometown of Pottstown Pa. and what other municipalities have done to make their town or village look better.
    Hylton’s focus was on making a community more accessible to the people who already live there and how to allow for new commercial development that looks natural and becomes a complimentary part of the village.  Hylton highlighted changes that can be made to zoning laws.  He explained when he helped rewrite his town’s zoning code, he condensed down their comprehensive plan to three pages and included it in the zoning.  He also said that the code was written so most people could understand it.  The new zoning code also included diagrams and pictures.
    Throughout his presentation, Hylton drew comparisons between Penn Yan, Pottstown, Hershey, Pa. and European cities. He said when he moved to Pottstown, he had purchased a home that was more than 100 years old, and that there was rarely a need to drive because everything he needed was within walking distance in the town. He focused in on how smaller communities like these help promote a healthier and happier way of life for those who live there.
    Hylton suggested planting more trees along the roads.  He showed pictures of trees that had grown so high, the streets and parking lots looked like parks.
    “I like to think of street trees as a sanctuary of green,” he said.
    Hylton added trees can be put into a parking lot without losing spaces.  When placed on the side of the road, Hylton said the grown trees create a natural canopy that can even cover the street.  He explained this also cools that area during the summer and trees naturally absorb stormwater.
“A big tree can hold thousands of gallons of water throughout the year,” said Hylton.
    When it came to new developments, Hylton shared how Freeport, Maine, made McDonalds and Friendly’s build restaurants in former houses.  He explained chain businesses will usually work with a village’s zoning code, which can be as simple as requiring a brick facade.
    Another zoning option is growth boundaries.  Hylton said this is where a municipality decides to designate an area that won’t be developed.  He explained this was first done in the U.S. in Lexington, Ky.  He added doing so preserves the natural beauty of an area.
    Hylton also talked about Milton Hershey saying he built the famous chocolate factory as a means to build his ideal town of Hershey, Pa. He said Hershey built his factory within a mile of where he grew up in the Derry Township, and that he designed Hershey to have everything nearby, with most destinations being within an hour bike ride throughout the township.
    Hylton said people tend to not appreciate what they have in small towns and villages, and that the smaller townships in the Finger Lakes region and across New York state are gems that should continue on with what they have.
    “If we want to encourage caring in America I have come to believe we need places to care about,” Hylton said. “In recent years we have made amazing technological progress...but for all this technological progress, you have to say, where are we spending our days?”
    When addressing ways to improve residents’ health, Hylton suggested bicycle lanes on the road.  He said it attracts cyclists to the area.  However, he added the streets would need to be wide enough for a bike lane to be added.  If not biking, Hylton also talked about how an appropriately zoned community gets people to walk more.  Hylton used the pre-automotive society as an example of a time when most people had to live within walking distance to everything they needed.
    “Penn Yan is a walking town,” said Hylton, about the scenic landscape.

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