When it comes to planning Chester County’s future, there are many voices and viewpoints about ways to balance preservation with growth.
That’s why the Chester County Planning Commission recently conducted a public meeting about Landscapes3, the county’s next long-range comprehensive plan. About 50 county residents attended the meeting, which included an hour-long open house at the beginning with six stations about the key focus areas in Landscapes3: preserve, protect, appreciate, live, work, and connect. At these stations, different planners were available to answer residents’ questions about the topics.
There were two other stations that allowed residents to share input about the plan’s vision statement and where they thought the additional 55,000 new housing units should go in Chester County over the next 30 years. In addition to new housing units, a Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission report indicates there will be 146,000 new residents and 88,000 new jobs in the next three decades.
During the presentation portion of the meeting, Chester County Chief Operating Officer Mark Rupsis stressed the importance of public input and noted that Landscapes, the original comprehensive plan, and Landscapes2, the current plan, are award-winning publications.
“This is one of the most important processes that county government goes through,” he said to a standing-room-only crowd at the West Whiteland Township Building on Oct. 26.
Chester County Planning Commission Executive Director Brian O’Leary said sprawl has been limited since the adoption of the first Landscapes in 1996, and 27 percent of the county has been preserved as protected open space. He added that downtowns have been revitalized, and transportation infrastructure has expanded and improved.
O’Leary also highlighted results of the Landscapes3 public survey that was available from mid-May until the end of June. About 6,000 people participated in the survey and open space and environment was a very high priority. Other high priorities included healthy lifestyles, guiding growth, sense of place, and vibrant economy. Moderate priorities included modern infrastructure, transportation choice, and housing options.
Several residents shared their views during the public comment portion of the meeting. They expressed interest in more mixed-use communities along with more connectivity of sidewalks and trails in some municipalities. Other residents discussed the importance of the agriculture industry and historic resources in the county.
West Vincent resident Donna Brennan, who is vice president of the French & Pickering Creeks Conservation Trust Board of Directors, said she’s interested in Landscapes3 issues such as the environment and preservation of natural resources and open space. Her husband, James Bergey, said he thinks it’s important to focus on responsible development and restoration of natural habitats.
East Brandywine resident Sarah Caspar said Landscapes3 is good because it includes land conservation but county officials also need to pay attention to large developments and provide a balance between both issues. She also believes there isn’t enough low-income housing in the county.
West Vincent resident Harriet Stone, who is a member of her township’s Environmental Advisory Council, talked about the great sense of community she has witnessed in her municipality and throughout the county.
The meeting “was a great opportunity to present the vision statement as a progress document to highlight what was good and also areas that might be clarified,” said Jim Garrison, one of the Landscapes3 Steering Committee members who is also a project manager at the Vanguard Group and vice president of the Chester County Historic Preservation Network. “The meeting format of informal small discussions followed by the larger public forum helped to bring out multiple points of view.”
Below is the final video from our Landscapes3 video series. Please check it out!