In a family, each child is special and unique in his or her own way. At the same time, they share characteristics common to their ancestors, parents and siblings.
The same concept holds true for hamlets located within the borders of towns.
They’re a part of the whole, a member of the family. But they’re also special areas within that town, unique in their heritage, history and physical makeup.
These places contribute to their towns’ identity, and they should be protected to ensure they maintain their character and individuality.
But development in hamlets falls at the mercy of the rules of the town government, since hamlets have no formal government structure of their own.
If you live in one of these hamlet areas — and you seek to preserve your local heritage — then you should be paying attention to what’s going on in Glenville.
There, residents of the hamlet of Alplaus — feeling threatened by a massive housing development planned for the nearby riverfront —argued that their place in the town, much older and more historic than the more suburban areas of Glenville, deserved special protection and consideration in planning issues.
They organized into a residents’ association, put together a plan for the future of their community, and presented it to town officials for inclusion in the town’s master plan.
Town officials could have dismissed the effort. After all, they’re under no obligation to treat one area of the town any differently than another.
But preserving town history and character is important, and to have dismissed the citizens’ efforts outright would have been a dereliction of their duty.
In the end, the Glenville Town Board didn’t include the hamlet’s plan in the town’s two-year-old master plan, as Alplaus residents had wanted. But they did agree to consider the plan whenever the town is faced with a major development that might disrupt the hamlet.
That’s a big commitment. And for now, that will have to do.
Alplaus residents should continue to push for formal inclusion in the master plan, for changes to protect their community from unwanted development, and for improvements to protect their quality of life, such as sidewalks, wider shoulders and more speed enforcement.
As for residents of hamlets or historic neighborhoods in other towns concerned about being trampled by unwanted growth, they should look at the Alplaus-Glenville relationship for guidance in how to organize, petition and work with their elected leaders.
It’s in the best interests of everyone in a town to ensure that local history, buildings and traditions are preserved.
The Alplaus-Glenville approach is an example of how to get that done.