The thing about development is it never seems to work out as well as it was planned – except for the developers. Don’t get me wrong; I’m not opposed to growth. I enjoy, for instance, trees large enough to make shade on a summer afternoon, and creeks wide enough to have pools for swimming. My favorite growth is the fish that grow larger each time I remember them.
Human population growth, on the other hand, has some drawbacks.
Life was good for many years in Emanon. (All names are fictional to protect the storyteller.) Herons and osprey hunted the creek, and people generally enjoyed living here.
A pavement salesman came to Emanon one day touting smooth roads, jobs and reduced vehicle repair bills, but a large number of residents thought the potholes were excellent inverse speedbumps. The salesman climbed back in his truck and left town. Some said they heard him grumbling something about progress.
Far and wide, word went out that people in the town were friendly, schools were good, and a place to build a home was, compared to places closer to the ocean and big cities, affordable. Developers with offices in several states touted the jobs they would create for local workers who would build new homes for new residents, resulting in new revenue in town coffers.
All would be beautiful and prosperous in the quiet rural air of Emanon. And it was.
Until some miscreant decided to break into one of the new homes and make off with a brand new flat-screen TV set large enough to play at the town movie house. Within days, a Special Township Meeting was called at which the residents voted to levy a tax to pay for a patrol car, radios and uniforms, and two officers to ensure the residents’ TV sets remained unmolested.
The following month, amid concern over the advancing age of much of the township’s population, there was added to the municipal budget three full-time paramedics and advanced equipment to augment the volunteer fire ambulance service so residents in trouble would not have to wait for medical assistance to arrive from across the county.
“By then, I could be dead,” said George Royce, a retired elementary school principal who had recently moved to Emanon.
A few months later, Tim Brown, a dairy farmer at the edge of town, decided it was time to retire and sold his 500-acre farm to a developer, who planted 700 new homes, a new police station for the additional officers that would be necessary, and a new fire and EMS station to house new equipment, including the new ambulance and the previously approved new full-time paramedics.
About six months after the Preserves at Brown’s Glen opened, a wag at a township meeting noted the new taxes to pay for the police and fire services and the finally smoothly-paved roads were about three times what Farmer Brown had been paying on 500 acres of grass, house and barn.
Supervisor Kevin Roberts announced the township had hired an engineer to begin designing a state-mandated waste treatment plant to serve the new houses.
“And what will that cost?” John Stillhauser queried.
“We’re not sure yet,” Supervisor Roberts replied, “but the cost will be covered by users paying to hook up to it, and a monthly fee for using it.”
“Who will have to use it?” Stillhauser asked.
“Everyone in town,” the supervisor answered.
“Tell us again, sir, how all those new homes have increased the tax base,” Ms. McElvoy commented as she took her seat.