Penn Yan 2020 vision group meets
PENN YAN—A group of Yates County citizens came together this past summer to form the 2020 Vision Steering Committee. Consisting of members representing various businesses and interests, the group’s goal is to determine what needs to be done to make Penn Yan and the surrounding Yates County area the best possible place to live in and visit. The committee wants to facilitate discussions and dialogue on issues facing the area to generate a vision for the future.
On Tuesday, Jan. 24, the steering committee hosted a discussion meeting at the Norton Chapel on the Keuka College campus. Brian Zerges, the chair of the committee, said “change is coming to Yates County” and it is best to prepare for the area’s future ahead of time. An example he gave of change coming to the area was the $40 million Finger Lakes Cultural and Natural History Museum in Keuka State Park which is expected to open in 2014.
Zerges explained that before further action is taken, the community first needs to come together to generate a vision of how the area should look in coming years. He said the group is planning to have a charrette (planning session where citizens and designers collaborate on a vision for development) in Penn Yan this coming November.
The non-profit Rochester Regional Community Design Center (RRCDC) is working with the steering committee to plan the charrette. RRCDC is a group of design professionals, planners, and citizens that provide planning assistance to the greater Rochester region. Roger Brown, RRCDC president, said his organization has assisted with about 35 charrettes in the Finger Lakes region over the last 10 years. Brown said RRCDC will also help communities with chosen design plans after a charrette takes place. Zerges said time is needed to plan for the event, which is why they want to hold it later on in the year. Committee member Grace Knapton noted the group needs to raise $40,000 to have the charrette. Knapton said the committee is looking to obtain that money through grants and donations.
The steering committee also brought in two guest speakers to help facilitate their discussion and address some of the changes coming to the area. One of the speakers was Jennifer Leonard, president and executive director of Rochester Area Community Foundation (RACF). The organization works to improve the quality of life in the greater Rochester region by evaluating and addressing community issues. RACF recently added Yates and Seneca Counties to the list of areas they work with. They also serve Ontario, Wayne, Monroe, Livingston, Genesee and Orleans Counties. After meeting with the steering committee last summer, Leonard suggested they work with RRCDC to plan a charrette. RACF also gave the committee $3,500 to go towards the $40,000 they need for the event.
Leonard discussed wealth transfers and how they could affect the area in coming years. She explained that a “conservative estimate” of the current net worth for Yates County is $1.51 billion, which is more than any other Finger Lakes county except Monroe and Ontario. Leonard explained that with a population of 24,555, the average net worth per household in the county is roughly $163,000. She did stress that net worth does not refer to the amount of money from employment that a household brings in annually. Rather, it is the value of all the possessions currently owned by a family such as real property. While Leonard said the county is looking “very good” financially, she did warn that as people age, this wealth will eventually be passed on to other generations. “The wealth does not stay put,” said Leonard.
According to Leonard, a big concern is the fear that new generations receiving the wealth will move out of the area. “Once wealth leaves the region, it will never return,” she explained. Leonard stressed the importance of current generations finding ways to ensure at least some of the wealth coming off their hands will stay in Yates County. She then discussed how RACF formed Yates Community Endowment after expanding on the areas they serve. Leonard explained the endowment fund is geared towards raising funds for the county to ensure at least some wealth remains in the area as the future approaches. She said the goal of this affiliate of RACF is to expand community philanthropy and encourage current generations to set aside a portion of their money for the county’s benefit. Leonard said that even if someone’s children end up moving out of the area, there would still be some money invested in the community. She added that this extra money being designated for the county’s future will better essential services such as education and neighborhood safety. “Give to your community for good and everyone can be a philanthropist,” said Leonard.
The other guest speaker was John Adamski, president of the Finger Lakes Cultural and Natural History Museum. The museum is expected to be a natural and cultural resource dedicated to the enjoyment, stewardship and education of the Finger Lakes region. Adamski talked about how the area would benefit from the museum. He explained that its appreciation of the Finger Lakes history would attract more visitors to the area. Adamski also mentioned it will be in a location that can attract people from a wide range of areas throughout N.Y. State. The museum is less than a two hour drive from Rochester, Syracuse, Elmira and over 40 million people live within an eight hour drive from the location.
The museum also received $2.28 million in state aid last December. Adamski said that money would towards converting the former elementary school building in Branchport into a Finger Lakes research and educational center. He also noted that the renovations on that project are expected to be completed in 2013.