I met with an old town resident last weekend named David Sullivan, aka Sully. He told me about a saying the long time residents have: “Erie takes care of its own”. Then he spent an hour talking about how tight knit their community is. For example: Back in the 90s an Erie police officer and Sully used to go around town and fix swamp coolers and windows in the summer for the older folks. One year, he allowed a neighbor’s troubled teen to move into his house while tensions calmed down in theirs. The old town residents have a long history of sticking together and that contributes to the warmth and charm we all feel when we visit.
Sully also told me they are concerned about something I wasn’t aware of: being forced out. Some old town residents are feeling pressure because of all the growth in Erie. They see the new neighborhoods and shopping options moving in around them and are concerned about what that means for the older downtown area. “New town” residents and businesses are popping up quickly and that could portend big, unwelcome changes downtown. The concern is that a developer or the town government could use eminent domain to force them out in order to build bigger storefronts or parking lots. I put his mind at ease. There is absolutely no way I would support that and I don’t think any of the sitting board or candidates would either. I’m also certain the town staff would not recommend it. I asked and they confirmed how unlikely it was. I am going to release my position on downtown development soon and I’m using conversations with residents and business owners to inform it. Sully and his neighbors love what Erie is becoming but want to make sure the charm and warmth of old town is protected. So do I.