Beyond the Boundaries
By: Joseph Massaro, Alex Ulatowski, Nate Mundt, Paul Elliott and Matt Wilson
Canalside Chronicles Staff
The Town of Sweden is often overshadowed by the Village of Brockport. Despite having about 6,000 more residents than Brockport and popular stores, such as Wegmans, people associate more with the quaint, peaceful life Brockport has to offer and of course, The College at Brockport. These contrasting lifestyles have led to a divide between the two municipalities.
It might make it even more confusing if you live in the Student Townhomes down on the Townhome Terrace near 350 New Campus Dr., near The College at Brockport. If you live in the townhomes, you’re technically living in the Town of Sweden, not the Village. This is odd because you would think living right near The College at Brockport, would make you located in the Village of Brockport like some of the college buildings including the various residential halls, the A.W. Brown Building, and Holmes Hall. However, the train tracks is what makes the difference between the Town of Sweden and the Village of Brockport. To be perfectly clear, the entire Village of Brockport is in the Town of Sweden, while a chunk of it is in the Town of Clarkson.
Knowing the two areas well may take a while, especially for incoming college students.
Jared Rosenberg, College at Brockport student mentions how the Village of Brockport gains more attention than the Town of Sweden due to its commercial businesses.
“The biggest difference between the Town of Sweden and the Village of Brockport is that the village is largely a college town because of the university, which brings in a lot more wealth with the shops there such as the new KFC and the Taco Bell that was newly renovated last year. There’s a great upgrade due to the amount of the people coming to the village whereas in Sweden, not so much.”
Like many, Rosenberg has mixed up the two areas. Yes, Brockport attracts a lot more people mostly due to the college, but the commercial restaurants Rosenberg mentions are actually in Sweden, not Brockport.
You wouldn’t think, but the Sweden Town Hall is located on State St., which is right off the Main St. located in the village, which includes local shops and the classic Brockport Strand Theater. And it’s ironic because Sweden’s town hall is closer to Brockport, while the village’s town hall is closer to the commercial buildings in Sweden. Brockport has its own building code, enforcement laws, its own police department and since 2015, its own court.
Sweden Town Clerk Karen Sweeting said that the two areas want to be separated from one another.
“The residents of the Village of Brockport want to be their own entity. They want to be separate from the town.”
Although Sweden was founded in 1814, 15 years before Brockport, the town lacks the name recognition of Brockport. Brockport has amenities, such as the Strand Theater, Erie Canal and the College at Brockport. Sweden Town Supervisor Kevin Johnson is fully aware of this fact.
“When people ask me where I’m from, I say Brockport,” Johnson said. “I don’t say I’m from Sweden.”
While Brockport has the more popular name association, Sweden has more commercial businesses. A main reason for this is Brockport has higher property taxes than Sweden does.
“Any type of commercial structure is going to be valued a lot higher than a residential house,” Johnson said. “If you’re going to build a structure that has a high assessment, are you going to do it in a high-tax area or a low-tax area?”
High taxes were also the main reason behind two votes to possibly dissolve the village of Brockport government into the town government of Sweden in 2010 and 2016. The referendum was defeated by margins of 59 to 41 percent and 57 to 43 percent respectively. Brockport residents pay double in taxes than those that reside in Sweden. Margaret Blackman, the mayor of Brockport, believes the referendum dissolution votes highlights key differences between Sweden and Brockport.
“Generally, your villages and your towns are different critters,” Blackman said. “There’s much more rural area in the Town of Sweden, while the village is much more densely populated.”
The Town of Sweden took no official stance on the issue while the votes occurred. Johnson wanted to make perfectly clear his position on the issue of dissolving the Brockport village government was neutral.
“I’m not saying I advocate for dissolution or I oppose it,” Johnson said. “Frankly, it’s up to the village government and their voters.”
Despite assumed hostilities and competition between Sweden and Brockport, Johnson and Blackman try to have lunch together monthly. Johnson believes that the two municipalities have had tension recently in their relationship based on key differences between constituents.
“The town traditionally has been heavily Republican, and the village has been heavily Democratic,” Johnson said. “The village addresses the needs of its constituents in a way that is different than the town does for its constituents.”
Sweden and Brockport strive to work together peacefully, despite key differences, such as wealth, taxes and political affiliations. However, it’s how the two municipalities put these contrasts aside that will determine their relationship going forward.