In Monroe County's suburbs, Henrietta is sometimes invoked as a pejorative or a cautionary tale of dominance by shopping plazas and big box commercial development. "We don't want to be Henrietta," residents tell their elected officials.
Yet those same people shop in Henrietta's stores and eat in its restaurants.
Henrietta is misunderstood. It's not all strip malls and megastores; commercial property makes up 12.4 percent of the town's land, according to 2012 figures compiled by Monroe County. Henrietta is about one-third residential and has significant agricultural and vacant land. It's also home to quite a few industrial operations and RIT's 1,300-acre campus.
In practical terms, Henrietta is a complex experiment in community balance. And the town's next supervisor will lead the government responsible for maintaining that balance.
Sitting Supervisor Michael Yudelson is seeking re-election, but is being challenged in a September 10 primary election by fellow Republican Jack Moore, who's been a Town Board member for six years. If Yudelson wins, he'll be uncontested in the November general election. If Moore wins, however, he'll face Yudelson again in November because Yudelson has the Conservative and Independence lines, too.
Yudelson has been supervisor since 2008 and before that served on the Town Board. In his campaign materials, Yudelson stresses the town's flat tax rate during his time as supervisor. He also says that services have been maintained, and that the town has continued to attract businesses and development. He did not respond to several interview requests.
The town tax rate, which is $1.21 per $1,000 of assessed value, is a point of pride among town officials. Town Board member Bill Mulligan says that the commercial and industrial businesses in the town contribute approximately half of the town's tax revenue, which has allowed the rate to remain steady.
But while the tax rate is low, Moore says, the town has also built up an $18 million reserve. Henrietta officials should give some of that money back to residents, he says, through a temporary tax decrease or some other action.
"We're a little overboard," Moore says. "Is it against the law? No. Is it great to have savings? Absolutely. But we're keeping people's money that we don't need to keep."
Moore owns and operates Gro-Moore Farms on East Henrietta Road and says he wants to bring his practical business experience to the supervisor's job. He also says that Yudelson hasn't been a strong leader.
During his first supervisor campaign, Yudelson said he wanted Henrietta to develop a town center concept for the area around the Wegmans on Calkins Road. Moore says that Yudelson hasn't taken steps to advance the idea. Moore says that when he negotiated a deal for the town to buy the Dome Arena property for $2.2 million, which could have advanced the town center concept, Yudelson didn't act on it.
Henrietta has tried to rein in off-campus properties rented to RIT students. The town passed an ordinance that restricts the number of unrelated people who can live in a residence, and it's defending the law in court.
Moore says that he wants the town to establish a rental property registry, similar to registries implemented in Rochester, Brockport, and Chili. Landlords would have to pay a fee to register their properties, Moore says, and the properties would have to be inspected yearly. It's an idea that he and fellow board member Mulligan have pushed for a few years.
The registry would help town officials ensure that rental properties are kept up, Moore says, and that they don't have safety or code violations.
"We're keeping people's money that we don't need to keep." Jack Moore