Westfield plans for water line will spur sprawl
Some people love puppies. I like puppies, but I really love beautiful old vintage buildings and want to adopt every abandoned and abused one I see.
I also feel the same way about vineyards and landscapes. I have learned, through my interest and study of historic buildings and landscape architecture, that together these two intertwined elements create a unique “sense of place.” Westfield has it. A sense of place. You’ve experienced it. On a day in September, when the windows are open and you smell the grapes in the air. A Victorian village, built in the heydays of the grape industry, and the beautiful vineyards which surround it.
This sense of place is worth fighting for and protecting – because once it is gone, it is not recoverable. And it is this unique sense of place which is our “golden egg” when it comes to agricultural tourism, one of the small bright spots in our local economy. The wineries in the region depend on it to attract visitors and tourists – just over one million a year, according to a 2015 Chautauqua County Visitors’ Bureau (CCVB) tourism study. And this sense of place is unparalleled – no other wine region in the state has the agricultural vistas which Westfield and Lake Erie Wine Country have – and it is thanks to our Concord grape vineyards.
The water line being proposed by the town of Westfield for the west side of Westfield on Route 20, would, I am certain, not be good for this special sense of place. In fact, it would help to destroy it.
My husband and I – as well as the residents who live in the proposed service area – do not need the water and are opposed to the installation of the line. We do not want to pay debt service for an unused line which would automatically rezone our properties in this agricultural district and encourage increased density and sprawl on the west entry to the Town of Westfield.
Our Town and Village Boards should be investing their time and energy in supporting the businesses we already have downtown – and filling those empty buildings like the Welch Building (now owned by the town of Westfield). Those Boards should not be inviting – nor spending OUR tax dollars – to encourage new non-farm businesses to install themselves in the middle of our vineyards, especially not non-farm businesses like motels which are better situated in say the Welch building (did you know that it started as a hotel?). The boards should be creatively advocating for our grape farmers who struggle with a weak grape and juice markets.
My vision of Westfield is that we – the community and its representatives, the Town and Village Boards of Westfield – should be preserving and promoting the two ingredients of this little paradise which have earned it accolades as “prettiest town.” The Town and Village Boards should be, in my opinion, doing everything they can to invigorate our historic downtown and to preserve and protect the vineyards from the ubiquitous sprawl and commercialization which afflicts so many of our communities in this country.
What is your vision for Westfield? Should we be asking ourselves this question and sharing our answers with our elected representatives?
Fred and Jennifer Johnson are residents of Westfield.