MY VIEW: Smart, responsible growth is key

As much as most of us who live in Oakland would like to be the last person to move here, that is simply not an option.

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  • | 12:57 p.m. December 22, 2016
  • West Orange Times & Observer
  • Opinion
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By Kathy Stark
Mayor, Oakland

I often have said how lucky we are to live in Oakland. When I look around, I see the growth happening all around us and coming to our wonderful small town. I recognize there are different ways to look at it, but there are some facts of which we sometimes need to remind ourselves. As much as most of us who live in Oakland would like to be the last person to move here, that is simply not an option. Considering that, the staff and the Town Commission have spent the last few years preparing for the growth we know is coming.

Anyone who owns property, no matter where in this great country of ours, has rights. They have a right to develop it within the rules and ordinances set forth by governing municipality. 

We first conducted Visioning Sessions to refine our Gateway Corridor ordinances so we would have a plan for any commercial development that would come our way on State Road 50. We held organized sessions and solicited citizen input to craft these ordinances in a way that maintains our identity and allows for businesses that will complement Oakland. 

Second, we formed an Appearance Review Board of citizen volunteers, many with construction, engineering and architectural backgrounds, to review proposed commercial developments prior to consideration by the Planning and Zoning Board (also made up of citizen volunteers). Once these proposals have gained approval from Planning and Zoning, they move to the Town Commission. The purpose is to ensure we are meeting the standards that have been set forth for the town. The Town Commission does not have exposure to planning and review of a development project until it comes to us at our meeting, nor do we meet with developers outside of public meetings.

All of this is a subjective and realistic approach to growth and a commitment to transparency in all that we do in Oakland. We take the responsibility of managing growth and citizen tax dollars seriously. We also welcome active participation by citizens in the process of managing this town on all levels, including our budgets and tax spending. 

Growth is not going away in West Orange County, and it will not go around us, either. We all need to work together to protect our identity, support our fellow residents and understand property rights in the coming years.