2009 APA Sustainable Comprehensive Plan


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On April 26, David Rouse and Rob Kerns of WRT and Shawn McLaughlin, Union County, PA Planning Director, presented "The Sustainable Comprehensive Plan" at the American Planning Association's National Conference in Minneapolis. WRT's planners are developing an overall approach and specific techniques designed to integrate sustainability into plans and implementing regulations at scales ranging from cities and regions to downtowns and neighborhoods. The Union County Comprehensive Plan, which was featured in the presentation, represents an application of WRT's sustainable planning and zoning initiative. It includes sustainability principles and keys as an organizing framework, supported by specific actions and indicators to measure progress in achieving sustainability targets.

Union County is a rural county in central Pennsylvania that is rich in agricultural, natural, historic, and small town resources. The comprehensive plan, which is expected to be adopted by the county commissioners this summer, was prepared with extensive public participation using the "values-driven" planning process pioneered by WRT. Through this process county residents expressed a strong interest in energy conservation and other sustainability issues.

"Union County is remarkable in that it is a small community with limited fiscal and staff resources that has made a commitment to sustainability in its draft comprehensive plan," said David Rouse, WRT's principal-in-charge of the project. "We expect major cities such as Seattle, Portland, and New York City to lead the way in addressing issues such as climate change and peak oil. However, we need many more places like Union County to take on this challenge if we are to find our way to a sustainable future."

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2009 APA Sustainable Comprehensive Plan

  1. 1. The Sustainable Comprehensive Plan APA National Conference Minneapolis, MN April 26, 2009 WRT Wallace Roberts & Todd, LLC
  2. 2. Agenda 1. Introduction and Emerging Trends 2. Sustainability in the Comprehensive Planning Process 3. Case Study: Union County Comprehensive Plan • Union County Background • Community Outreach • Cultivating Community: A Sustainable Comprehensive Plan for Union County 4. Questions and Discussion David Rouse, AICP, Principal, Wallace Roberts & Todd Shawn McLaughlin, AICP, Planning Director, Union County, PA Robert Kerns, AICP, Associate, Wallace Roberts & Todd
  3. 3. Introduction and Emerging Trends
  4. 4. The 21st Century Comprehensive Plan Values-Driven • Collaborative • Thematic Based • Linking Process and Outcome • Regional in Focus • Beyond Paper • Source: The 21st Century Comprehensive Plan, presentation and paper prepared by David Rouse, Michael Chandler, and Jon Arason for the 1999 National APA Conference in Seattle, WA
  5. 5. Sustainability Issues • Critical Environmental Stresses (Lester Brown)1 – Deteriorating oil and food security – Climate change: rising temperatures and sea levels – Emerging water shortages – Natural systems under stress – Growing divides between rich and poor • Two Great Oversights of Our Time (Rob Hopkins)2 – Peak oil – Climate change 1 Plan B 3.0, 2008 The Transition Handbook, 2008 2
  6. 6. What is Sustainability? • Definitions …Development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs (Brundtland Commission, 1987) …Development that improves the long-term health of human and ecological systems (Stephen M. Wheeler, Planning for Sustainability, 2004) • The Three “Es” – Environment – Economy – Equity
  7. 7. Sustainable Comprehensive Plans • The Leaders – Seattle’s Comprehensive Plan: Towards a Sustainable Future – Portland, OR: Portland Plan – Plan NYC: A Greener, Greater New York – Greenburg, KS: Sustainable Comprehensive Master P:lan • Other Examples – Minneapolis, MN: Plan for Sustainable Growth – Salem, OH: Sustainable Comprehensive Plan – Washtenaw County, MI: A Sense of Place, A Sustainable Future • Cities with Extensive Sustainability Initiatives – San Francisco – Chicago
  8. 8. Emerging Trends • State Legislation – California: Climate change legislation – Massachusetts Green Community Act (Comprehensive Energy Reform) • Natural Step Framework – Eco-Municipalities (Sweden) – Santa Monica, CA Sustainable City Program – Grassroots initiatives (e.g., Lewisburg, PA) • Transition Initiatives – 64 adopted Transition Initiatives as of 6/08 – 54 in UK, 4 in New Zealand, 2 in US, 1 in Ireland – US communities: Boulder, CO and Sandpoint, ID
  9. 9. Sustainability in the Comprehensive Planning Process
  10. 10. Typical Comprehensive Planning Process • Outreach / Input • Analysis • Synthesis/Choice • Plan Development • Implementation
  11. 11. Sustainability in the Planning Process • Outreach / Input: “Values-driven” planning meets the “environmental imperative” • Analysis: Sustainability scan • Plan Development: Sustainability “building blocks” (organizing the plan) • Implementation: Sustainability indicators and tools
  12. 12. Sustainability Principles • Energy Reduce fossil fuel usage and carbon emissions through the planning and design of communities, sites, and buildings • Resiliency Reduce vulnerability to external environmental and economic threats through planning, design, and increased reliance on local resources, goods, and services • Mobility Locate and design transportation systems to reduce reliance on the automobile and promote alternative modes • Stewardship Preserve and restore natural, cultural, and built resources. Integrate natural and human ecological systems in the planning and design of communities • Equity Provide housing, transportation, and employment opportunities for persons of all socioeconomic backgrounds and abilities
  13. 13. Outreach / Input Vision: Define in relation to environmental challenges and sustainability principles Education: Frame sustainability issues to resonate with community Economic Challenges • – Impacts of volatile energy costs – Fiscal impacts of inefficient development patterns Environmental Challenges • – Impacts on climate change and security – Vulnerability to natural and human disasters Social Challenges • – Lack of affordable workforce housing – Effects on community health (obesity)
  14. 14. Analysis • Sustainability Scan: How sustainable is your community? • Level 1 (Qualitative) – Review existing plans, policies, and regulations – Evaluate land use patterns / infrastructure systems • Level 2 (Quantitative): Impact modeling (e.g., INDEX by Criterion Planners) – Carbon footprint /greenhouse gas emissions – Energy consumption – Stormwater runoff – Traffic impact modeling – Fiscal impact modeling – Land consumption/development patterns
  15. 15. Plan Development: Building Blocks Land Use • Model 1: Conventional Plan Elements • Transportation • • Establish overarching sustainability framework Housing • • Define sustainability principles and Natural & Historic Resources • themes with the community Agricultural Resources • • “Activate” framework, principles, and Recreation and Open Space • themes through strategies and actions in different elements Community Facilities • Economic Development • Potential New Elements: Energy Conservation • Community Form • Hazard Mitigation •
  16. 16. Plan Development: Building Blocks • Model 2: Systems Approach Energy (utility infrastructure, energy sources/ • production, conservation) • Organize elements into “systems” Food (local networks, production, • • Define sustainability principles and distributions, health, access) themes with the community Mobility (complete streets, connectivity) • • Emphasize interconnectedness between elements Green Infrastructure (greenways, • sensitive environmental resources, urban “greening”, etc.) Housing (community character & form, • types, affordability, need vs. supply) Economic (employment, diversity, • accessibility, local “asset-based” community development) Social (education, recreation, cultural and • historic resources, safety and security, community health)
  17. 17. Implementation Action Plan • – Types of actions (policy, regulatory, capital investment) – Schedule / timeframes – Responsible parties Capacity-Building / Partnerships • – Municipal government – Other levels of government – Non-profit organizations / institutions – Private sector businesses – Citizens Plan Monitoring • – Measures of progress (sustainability indicators)
  18. 18. Union County Background
  19. 19. Union County Background • Located along the Susquehanna River 60 miles N of Harrisburg,165 New York, NY miles NW of Philadelphia, Union County and 200 miles E of Pittsburgh • Comprehensive plan for 13 Harrisburg, PA municipalities Philadelphia, PA • 3 multi-municipal plans Washington DC
  20. 20. Union County Background • Attractive rural quality of life with strong agricultural heritage and small towns / villages • Forests and agriculture represents 60% and 30% of total land use, respectively • Access to major urban areas via I-80 and other routes • Historic downtown districts in Lewisburg and Mifflinburg • Bucknell University is located in Lewisburg
  21. 21. Existing Land Use
  22. 22. Union County Background • 80% of County zoned for Agricultural or Woodlands / limited low-density housing is permitted in most of these districts • Residential housing growth: 14% from 1990-2000 and 8% from 2000-2006 • 40% housing growth projected by 2030 / highest growth expected in agricultural townships
  23. 23. New Structures 2001-2006 (+1,000 units) & Land Preservation
  24. 24. Union County Population, 1820-2050 70,000 60,000 2000 50,000 Population 40,000 30,000 20,000 10,000 0 Year
  25. 25. Total Land Area Needed for 2006-2050 @ 1 DU/Net Acre* * 1) An additional 20% in land area is included in acreage calculation to accommodate utilities and ROW; 2) Gregg Township is included in the total projection, but is excluded from the Planning Area totals. + 8,826 Housing Units = 10,590 Net Acres in Union County* 640 Acres 4 miles 1 2
  26. 26. Community Outreach
  27. 27. Outreach & Involvement Techniques Website • Advisory Teams • Branding, Advertising & Marketing • Citizen Survey • Public Forums • Meeting In a Box • Stakeholder Interviews • Municipal Officials Meetings • School Programs •
  28. 28. www.cultivatingcommunity.net
  29. 29. Advisory Teams • Countywide Plan Advisory Team • 28 volunteers – Represented diverse County stakeholders • Met every other month on average • 3 Multi-Municipal Advisory Teams • Elected Officials & Planning Commissioners • Met as needed
  30. 30. Citizen Survey Results
  31. 31. Outreach & Involvement Themes Energy Conservation & Sustainability • Preservation of Agriculture & Natural Resources • Growth Management • Create Trails & Pedestrian-Friendly Development • Expand Public Transportation • Vitality of Town Centers • Regional Cooperation • Concern About Quality of New Growth • Economic Opportunity for Current Residents • Strategic Infrastructure Investment •
  32. 32. Cultivating Community: A Sustainable Comprehensive Plan for Union County
  33. 33. Vision Statement Union County will be a prosperous and beautiful valley in 2030 by: Protecting precious natural resources & agriculture • Supporting sustainable economic growth • Promoting its unique town & country lifestyle • Three concurrent regional visions will contribute their special strengths to achieving these goals: The western region will be a The central region will be The eastern region will be a home for rural enterprise and the heart of Union center of county government, connecting with nature. County’s agricultural and medical service, and higher small town heritage. education in a town and country setting.
  34. 34. Future Growth Management Framework Continue Small Town Citizen Direction & Patterns Sustainability
  35. 35. Recommended Growth Management Framework
  36. 36. What the Future Could Look Like
  37. 37. Union County’s Cultivating Community Comprehensive Plan: A Hybrid Approach • Topical Plan Elements • Natural and Agricultural Resources • Land Use • Housing • Economic Development • Cultural, Historic, and Recreational Resources • Community Facilities, Utilities, and Energy Conservation • Implementation • Integrating Factors • Sustainability Principles • Sustainability Keys • Sustainability Indicators
  38. 38. Sustainability Principles 1. Focus new development in and around established communities • Promote reinvestment in existing towns and villages • Develop in close proximity to existing infrastructure 2. Preserve rural resources • Maintain agriculture and prime farmland soils • Preserve sensitive natural features and scenic views 3. Conserve energy • Decrease fossil fuel consumption • Reduce automobile use / promote transportation alternatives 4. Conserve fiscal resources • Limit the negative impacts of new development on municipal budgets • Limit the negative impacts of new development on community services
  39. 39. Sustainability Keys 1. Natural and Agricultural Resources - System Integrity 2. Land Use - Mixed Use 3. Housing - Diversity 4. Economic Development - Building Local Assets 5. Transportation – Multi-Modal Choices 6. Cultural, Historic, and Recreational Resources - Adaptive Reuse 7. Community Facilities, Utilities, and Energy Conservation - Energy Conservation
  40. 40. Sustainability Key – Natural and Agricultural Resources System Integrity Maintain integrity of woodlands, greenways, waterways, wetlands, • habitats, open space, soils, and agricultural lands Sample Sustainability Indicators Water Quality • Animal and plant indicator species • Agricultural / forest lands preserved (e.g., easements, TDR) •
  41. 41. Sample Actions Natural and Agricultural Resources Create a countywide Green Infrastructure • Plan Educate farmers about alternative • livestock production systems with lesser impacts on land and water quality (e.g. organic, free-range, non-confinement, grass-fed meat and poultry)
  42. 42. Sustainability Key – Land Use Mixed Use Strengthen the County’s traditional land use pattern of compact, mixed- • use development focused on small towns and villages Sample Sustainability Indicators New development inside vs. outside growth areas • Vertical vs. horizontal mixed-uses • Carbon footprint / greenhouse gas emissions • Cultivating Community
  43. 43. Sample Actions Land Use Prepare regulations to promote walkable, • mixed-use communities (e.g., TND, form- based zoning, incentives, etc.) Develop conservation subdivision / tree • preservation standards for use in rural areas Cultivating Community
  44. 44. Sustainability Key – Housing Housing Diversity Provide choices in housing types and prices to meet different segments • of the County’s population Sample Sustainability Indicators Mix of housing types vs. housing demand based on demographics • Affordability • Access to services (e.g., community facilities, parks and recreation, retail) •
  45. 45. Sample Actions Housing Provide different housing types in • designated growth areas for a changing and aging population Implement a “green building” program • through new code requirements / incentives, education, grants / loans, and partnerships (electric companies)
  46. 46. Sustainability Key – Economic Development Building Local Assets Build economic activities that: • • Draw on County’s intrinsic values – high quality of life, fertile agricultural soils, quality educational and medical institutions • Reduce dependence on outside resources (e.g., use locally produced goods and services rather than imported goods) Sample Sustainability Indicators Locally-owned businesses • Employment opportunities / living wages •
  47. 47. Sample Actions Economic Development Focus programs on businesses that “fit” • with growing industry clusters • Healthcare • Education • Lumber and wood products • Diversified manufacturing • Hospitality/tourism Expand partnerships with area • educational / healthcare institutions Cultivating Community
  48. 48. Sustainability Key – Transportation Transportation Choices Provide convenient choices for people to use different forms of travel • (autos, bicycles, transit, and walking) to meet their mobility needs. Sample Sustainability Indicators Reduction in vehicle miles traveled (VMT) • Length of sidewalks / bike lanes / multi-use trails • Connectivity index • Cultivating Community
  49. 49. Sample Actions Transportation Designate a network of on-road routes • with adequate paved shoulders for non- motorized travel (horse and buggy, bicycles) Provide for pedestrian / bicycle facilities in • land development / roadway improvements (e.g., traffic impact study ordinances, roadway design guidelines) Cultivating Community
  50. 50. Sustainability Keys – Cultural, Historic, and Recreational Resources Adaptive Reuse Refers to modification or rehab of existing structures to serve new uses • (e.g., “recycling: former schools for retail, office, or residential uses) Sample Sustainability Indicators Historic resources recognized / preserved • Recycled buildings • Heritage tourism activity •
  51. 51. Sample Actions Cultural, Historic, and Recreational Resources Implement a countywide preservation • program to encourage rehab or adaptive reuse of historic resources and other older buildings Designate Union County as part of the • Middle Susquehanna State Heritage Area
  52. 52. Sustainability Keys – Community Facilities, Utilities, and Energy Conservation Energy Conservation Energy is required for all life’s activities; minimizing energy usage both • conserves resources and yields economic returns by lowering costs. Sample Sustainability Indicators Compactness of infrastructure systems • Renewable energy installations • Green buildings • Reduction in VMT •
  53. 53. Sample Actions Community Facilities, Utilities, and Energy Conservation Support opportunities for energy • production on farms (e.g., methane from dairies, regional manure digester) Upgrade high school facilities as model • “green” facilities • Sustainable building systems • Site / stormwater management practices • Multi-modal transportation access
  54. 54. Union County’s Cultivating Community Comprehensive Plan: Implementation • Geographic Scale • Countywide Action Plan • Multi-Municipal Action Plans • Actions • Types (regulatory, policy / planning, capital investment, partnerships) • Timeframes • Responsibilities • Funding sources • Monitoring • Annual Assessments / Work Programs • Measures of Progress (sustainability indicators)
  55. 55. Key Issue: Capacity-Building • Union County and its municipalities have a small population and limited resources • Three municipalities do not have zoning ordinances • Partnerships among the public, private, and nonprofit / institutional sectors will be key to success • Public / public (e..g., PA State Agencies / Union County / municipalities) • Public / private (e.g., Lewisburg Area Recreation Park – LARA / Playworld; Pennsylvania House redevelopment) • Public / institutional (e.g., Union County / Bucknell University)
  56. 56. The Sustainable Comprehensive Plan APA National Conference Minneapolis, MN April 26, 2009 Contact Information David Rouse, AICP, Principal, Wallace Roberts & Todd drouse@ph.wrtdesign.com Shawn McLaughlin, AICP, Planning Director, Union County smclaughlin@unionco.org Robert Kerns, AICP, Associate, Wallace Roberts & Todd rkerns@ph.wrtdesign.com www.cultivatingcommunity.net WRT Wallace Roberts & Todd, LLC