Richey Lane important 'subtractibility' site
Allen County residents may puzzle about the continued controversy that characterizes the Canyon Cliffs development and Richey Lane.
The site is a local example of principles that were recognized with a Nobel Prize in economics. The late Elinor Ostrom, distinguished professor of economics at Indiana University in Bloomington, shared a 2009 Nobel Prize for her research on how people make decisions about resources held in common.
Ostrom defined certain resources such as clean water, pure air and green landscapes as having “high subtractibility,” which means once they’re used up or contaminated, they are no longer available. Further, she found that the most effective decision-makers are those most affected.
Such a model might suggest that private property rights are the best mechanism for resource use. However, current economic and technological power is such that uninformed or selfish choices can severely impact the health and resilience of an ecosystem.
Development in the Cedar Creek corridor is different from building in a cornfield or urban brown field. The corridor is a significant part of the Fort Wayne metro area’s green space and water supply. In such a place, the action of landowners and government officials has impact far beyond property lines or jurisdictional boundaries; and negative environmental changes may be irreversible during our lifetimes.
At a recent meeting of the Allen County Commissioners, attorney Tom Niezer suggested, “They just want to block the project. This is the way development has worked in our county for years.”
Such a comment is simplistic and inaccurate. What we see is a citizenry going about the business of speaking prophetic truth to power. Namely, “Allen County’s environmental and economic landscape is in flux. Resources are finite, and our community’s future will be shaped by the creative, strategic decisions made in anticipation of a world in rapid change.”
The developer’s billboard on Coldwater Road proclaims Canyon Cliffs as “Fort Wayne’s most beautiful lots.” That message should also remind us that consumption of highly subtractible community resources is not a good idea, and we do so to our long-term detriment.
This is why the quarter mile of Richey Lane is so significant.