Another way to improve infrastructure while keeping small-town charm includes securing a grant. Carter said they could put teardrop-style street lights along Fourth Street and make other improvements and still keep an old, small-town feel.
“We don’t want a Thornton’s built right across the street here or anything like that,” Carter said, sitting in Utica’s Town Hall on Fourth Street. “There’ll be plenty of room out by the interchange for businesses like that. We want to keep it a small town as far as the downtown part of Utica. Now, if somebody wants to come in and build a nice antique shop, I’d welcome it now more than ever.”
But the promise of growth may not be enough to quell concerns of the town’s lifers.
“The elderly, born and raised here, don’t really care for that,” Snelling said of the impending hustle and bustle from the project. “They’re happy with the little town as it is. I was born here almost 82 years ago. I want to see change, but I don’t want to see it change all the way.”
HOME SWEET HOME
A residential building boom could come after the project, but building downtown requires jumping over a few hurdles.
Residential development, at least within town boundaries, can be prohibitively expensive, Snelling said. With several different flood classifications downtown, he said building requirements on new homes should be relaxed if the town board wants to increase the tax base.
“You’ve got to elevate 14 feet before you even build and I can see where that might be a problem if you’re not rich,” Snelling said. “Who can pay $35[,000], $40,000 for a foundation under your house? You take people that want to move here, if they’re not rich, that’s a hell of a price to have to pay for an elevation.”