"One of the things that jumped out at me was people still have a lot of trouble getting a sense that the Village is a community, whereas the Town does have a community," said Trustee and Deputy Mayor Lynn Leopold. "They do have a sense of a center up there. And they have hamlets, which we don't have. We're sort of a retrofitted village with a commercial area. And the town people think their commercial center is here."
How much influence the survey will have on either plan is not certain. Despite hiring Survey Research Institute (SRI), a professional firm that specializes in municipal surveys and statistics there is skepticism about the size of citizen samples on both boards. On the Village side Trustee John O'Neill has been most outspoken about his mistrust of the numbers, while Councilman Ed LaVigne opposed paying professionals to do something he said volunteers could have done. While SRI experts say the sample of town and villagers is scientifically viable, officials continue to express skepticism.
"The problem is, it's very small statistics," said Village Mayor Donald Hartill. "It's very hard to draw firm conclusions from that. I've glanced at a few things and it's pretty much all over the map."
Even so the survey results are the best scientific data either municipality has. The Town solicited more input by putting the survey online and both municipalities collect citizen opinions from email, phone and personal encounters with citizens who have something to say. However even officials who are suspicious of the survey results concede that the other forms of input represent self-selected residents that do not necessisarily represent town and village-wide opinions.
The results presented in this article are based on a quick review of the data. VIllage and town officials will have to spend more time interpreting the data, and will have to decide what it really means as they plan for future growth. While none of the results are surprising, they do tell a story about what townspeople and villagers think, and show the population as split on some key issues, while generally satisfied with life in their communities.
Town and village residents disagreed on the top reason to live in Lansing. 28.1% of Townspeople said they like the rural nature of the town. The older the respondent, the more the rural nature of the town mattered to them. 40.9% of Villagers said they like the location because it is easy to get places and convenient to everything. Taken together location was most important in the town and village across income levels, homes with school-age children and employment status.
Most residents said they are satisfied with living in Lansing. A larger percentage of Village residents said they were 'very satisfied' but more townspeople reported they are 'satisfied'. Residents aged 65 and older were the most satisfied, while those 18-45 had the highest 'satisfied' rating. Most people in the middle group also said they are satisfied. 7% of that group are very dissatisfied, the highest level of dissatisfaction, while older and younger residents had much lower levels of dissatisfaction. People with higher incomes are the most satisfied with 41.1% of those earning $100,000 or more saying they are 'very satisfied'. Those earning less than $50,000 had the highest 'satisfied' rating, however, with the middle income group also having a high percentage of satisfaction.
Townspeople are split close to 50/50 on how well their elected officials are performing. Villagers are somewhat more satisfied with their government with about 63% saying they think performance is good or excellent. The majority say their governments are not good at communicating to their communities, with more townspeople dissatisfied than village residents.
More town residents than villagers said they are likely to be living in Lansing in five years. The numbers hovered around half staying and half going with 54.2% of townspeople saying they think they will still be here, and 45.8% of villagers. The top reason for leaving Lansing is that it is too expensive to live here.
On development town and village residents were about the same with about 75% wanting to encourage moderate income housing. More townspeople (about 55%) than villagers (about 45%) want to encourage multi-family and senior housing. And most Lansingites support locally owned shops in a town center. Fewer support national retail stores. The majority suport offices, banks and restaurants in a town center evenly across income levels. There is support for residential development in a town center, with slightly more support in the village than the town. Slightly more people want to encourage more lakeside commercial development than those opposing it. Villagers are more open to it.
An overwhelming majority of townspeople and villagers want to protect natural areas, and the same is true of protecting farmland in both the town and the village. There is also a majority that favors renewable energy sources with more people in the town than the village saying it is 'very important' or 'important'. A smaller number say it is important for growth, but the number who did is still a majority. A majority also say that energy efficient buildings are important for growth. About 75% of villagers are in favor of a green infrastructure.
Townspeople want to encourage tourism about as much as villagers, with townspeople slightly more enthusiastic about it. Light industry is also favored, but more people oppose heavy industry in the town and village. Fracking for natural gas received low ratings with 47.5% of townspeople and 50.7 of villagers wanting to 'strongly discourage' it and 28.2% of townspeople and 25.0% of villagers choosing to 'discourage' fracking.
A number of questions deal with quality of life and services in the town and village, safety of the streets and fire and ambulance service. Most people agree that fire, police and ambulance service is good.
Town and village residents were about evenly split on whether tax dollars should be used for the local arts scene. Those who have lived in the town for less than five years and younger residents are more supportive of the arts.
Villagers were more likely to prefer email as their top choice for communication from the village government, while townspeople still prefer postal mail. Still a larger percentage of villagers preferred postal mail than townspeople, who chose email as a close second. Not surprisingly wealthier residents prefer email while those earning less than $50,000 prefer postal mail.
The Town Board is waiting for its Comprehensive Plan update Committee, led by part time municipal planner Jonathan Kantor, to make a recommendation before taking action on approving an updated plan. The Village Board is taking a more hands-on approach, splitting their existing plan among Village Trustees, who are working with citizen volunteers to update their sections.
While there has been some discussion of polling business owners in the Village because of its large commercial presence, Trustees had no solid plan for getting that input. Mayor Donald Hartill charged Trustees with incorporating the survey results into their sections of the Village plan within the next three months. He said the Trustees will hold a joint meeting with the Village Planning board to finalize the plan.