Studies and statistics help to quantify what many residents of Lakewood already know-Lakewood is a wonderful community in which to live. In October of 2016, Buffalo Business First compiled a statistical analysis of 59 cities and villages in Western New York and found that Lakewood made the list at number 5. Lakewood outranks 93.1% of the communities that were studied. Employment base, income level, residential stability, schools, and positive environments for children and seniors were part of the study. That kind of recognition does not come about without much behind the scenes work by the individuals elected to serve the Village as well as by concerned residents of the Village.
Not long after the Buffalo Business First report, on January 9, 2017, the Comprehensive Plan for the Village of Lakewood was adopted. The Comprehensive Plan is a “commitment to a coordinated vision for the future.” The Steering Committee, led by Edward “Ted” McCague as Chair and Craig Seger as Vice Chair involved the mayor and trustees of Lakewood as well as interested citizens who were committed to over 2 years of study. The plan required public input through focus groups and a survey; the involved individuals were looking for “the best of the past to bear on the future.” One purpose of the plan is to encourage civic involvement so that the Village of Lakewood can become a 21st Century Community.
The Committee considered the framework of 5 objectives of a 2013 federally mandated plan for the Western Southern Tier of New York called the Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy or CEDS. The five objectives of the CEDS are (1) to retain population and attract younger residents to the region, (2) to foster innovation and entrepreneurship, (3) to create quality places to live, (4) to create value of the region’s products through branding and marketing and (5) to establish collaboration between communities.
The Committee studied character areas, land use areas, population and age distribution, housing options, tax burden, and employers among other things. It compared Lakewood to surrounding communities in a statistical way to make regional comparisons. Recommendations came out of these studies. These recommendations are defined as objectives which will guide future development so that Lakewood can preserve its “unique, waterfront, prewar village” nature but continue to move forward economically.
One of the more salient objectives concerns Lakewood’s lakeside location. The Plan states that “the village should be a model community leading the way in the regeneration of Chautauqua Lake and in the management of storm water.” The nature of the soil in a great part of Lakewood makes it an area that is more prone to poor draining and greater runoff into the lake. Currently, there is an engineering study being done as a joint project with the town of Busti to address runoff concerns.
Reading the objectives creates a picture of a community revitalized. The Historic Village Center will maintain its charm while improving its function and the Mall area will serve as a mixed-use area that includes housing. Green spaces, sidewalks that connect all areas of the Village, walking trails, and bicycle lanes are all part of the future vision. Relocating existing industry to a more industrial area as well as a focus on water-based tourism completes the picture. Having these objectives in place will drive action, according to the Comprehensive Plan.
Ben Franklin is credited with the quote: If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail! The residents of Lakewood should be grateful to the men and women who have worked to develop a plan that will guide the leaders of Lakewood for the next 10-20 years.