Supervisor's Note Part III: Land use decisions
As a Town, it is critical that we continually adapt to meet the needs of our growing community. One important element of this is the comprehensive planning process that I outlined in a previous Supervisor’s Note on land use.

I also explained how the resident-led 2010 Comprehensive Plan identified the need for mixed-use zoning (MUD) within the Town of Penfield.

With that groundwork, we can discuss more specifically why there is a need for MUD, and how it impacts you as a resident in Penfield.

Expanded housing options

In Penfield, we have many folks who have lived in our community in single-family homes for most of their lives. But as they age, they are searching for alternative housing options. For residents looking to downsize, there are currently very few options available to continue residing in Penfield.

Similarly, the younger demographic faces barriers to living in our community. Penfield is made up of predominantly larger, single-family homes, and it is not particularly conducive to those looking for options outside the traditional single-family residence.

With mixed-use development, alternative housing opportunities can be developed to better meet the needs of current residents and those looking to be a part of our community. This can all be done while reducing suburban sprawl through increased development density, a key characteristic of mixed-use.

Diversification of the economic base

As I’ve said before, I understand no one likes paying taxes. To that point, to maintain one of the lowest tax rates in Monroe County, we must continue to diversify the tax base.

A diversified tax base, which includes commercial, agricultural, AND MUD reduces the tax burden placed on single-family homeowners.

Different land use types have different associated costs. It is often assumed single-family homes are the best way to strengthen the tax base. However, citing data included in our 2010 Comprehensive Plan, that is not the case:

“There is a direct relationship between land uses, the services they require, and the taxes required to provide those services. For example, undeveloped lands such as agriculture and open space do not require community services such as fire or police protection and do not increase the number of children to be educated by the local school system.”

Put simply, single-family homes tend to require the largest range of services, including fire, police, sidewalks, road maintenance (plowing), water service, sewer service, recreation, library services, and the education of children.

A typical single-family home has an average net loss of approximately $.15 for every dollar in taxes. In other words, for every dollar of property tax paid on a single-family home, it costs roughly $1.15 to provide services.  

Land uses by the numbers

Let’s look at a breakdown of land uses and how each impacts the tax base (source 2010 Town of Penfield Comprehensive Plan):
  • Agricultural: +$0.64 
  • Commercial: +$0.73 
  • Residential: - $0.15
Each dollar in tax revenue on a piece of commercial property uses $.27 of services, each dollar in revenue from agricultural land uses $.36, and each dollar in revenue from a single-family home uses $1.15. It’s evident that the commercial and agricultural properties effectively subsidize the single-family residential properties.

As you can see, the typical single-family home is by far the most expensive form of land use (services required are the greatest).

What happens if a town used its land for only one purpose?

All residential? The math is clear. Under this scenario, to maintain the current level of services, regular increases in the tax levy would be required

Choosing to use land exclusively for commercial and/or agricultural purposes, while being more “cost effective” in land use vs. services analysis, are not viable options either for obvious reasons.

Land use has to be a balancing act.  Too much or too little of one specific use is not beneficial for a community. 

In short, diverse land use means a diverse tax base, therefore benefitting the entire community.

Development process

Although a portion of the area along Route 250 is zoned mixed-use, that does not automatically mean development projects will take place.

Like any privately held property, landowners are entitled to sell the property. This is no different than one selling a single-family residence. Similarly, landowners are entitled to submit project applications to the Town to develop land.

No projects are done at the behest of the Town, applications are independently submitted by interested property owners/developers.

The only role the Town plays is the review of submitted project applications; reviews are completed by the appropriate board or boards. Projects must meet local, state, and federal standards for approval. I detailed this process, including how the public is informed about proposed projects in a previous Supervisor’s Note. If you have yet to read it, I encourage you to do so.

Looking ahead

Like each of you, I call this community home. I want nothing more than for our community to be a thriving and inclusive place to live and do business.

I look forward to continued growth and success for our Town while remaining committed to preserving farmland and open space, and honoring the rich history of Penfield.