Checking In with Landscapes3 – First Quarter Success Story Highlights

You might have heard the term “Landscapes3” before, and you might even know that it’s Chester County’s comprehensive plan – but did you know that Landscapes3 is what helps guide the future for all of Chester County?

Implementing Landscapes3 requires coordinated efforts among the county’s municipalities, government, landowners, stakeholders, and residents. This includes everything from planning and design, to programs and services, as well as the ability to adapt in an ever-changing world. While we recently highlighted the county’s 2020 Success Stories in regards to the six goals found in Landscapes3, efforts have continued throughout the first quarter of 2021 as well!

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Meet our Office & Communications Manager, Beth Cunliffe

If you’ve ever wondered how a staff of 37 manages to “effortlessly” transition to a virtual work environment amidst a global pandemic, chances are they’ve got a pretty great team working behind the scenes. Here at the Chester County Planning Commission, our Office and Communications Manager, Beth Cunliffe, knows how to keep things running smoothly!

Beth began her career with Chester County back in 2006, when she was first hired as the Office Administrator at the Chester County Water Resources Authority. The following year, an opportunity to advance her skills became available, and Beth became the Office Manager at the Chester County Planning Commission. In 2017, she was promoted to the Planning Commission’s Office and Communications Manager, adding the communications staff to her team.

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The Importance of Chester County’s “Main Streets”

A vital downtown not only serves as an icon of a healthy community, but also as a foundation for economic health, local quality of life, and community pride. In Chester County, there are 15 boroughs plus the City of Coatesville which each serve as a civic, economic, and population center with its own unique set of characteristics and “sense of place.”

In the Planning world, these town centers are often referred to as “Main Streets” – a program which stems from the 1980s and includes downtowns that have established central business districts. For sustained economic success, Main Street areas need strong support from their communities in order to cultivate partnerships, encourage local involvement, and provide resources and overall guidance.

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2020 Non-Residential Construction Report

In addition to residential housing data, the Chester County Planning Commission tracks the county’s completed non-residential construction on an annual basis.

Last year, Chester County saw an addition of 961,413 non-residential building square feet through 39 various projects. This included a mix of retail, restaurant, office, institutional, and industrial buildings – with institutional and commercial uses accounting for the majority of the new square footage.

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Chester County Journeying Toward Freedom with 2021 Town Tours

Join Chester County this summer in “Journeying Toward Freedom” during the 2021 Town Tours and Village Walks program!

This year’s program will kick off on Thursday, June 17, with a virtual ceremony and Juneteenth Commemoration starting at 5:00 pm, followed by optional in-person walking tours at 6:45 pm at the Chester County History Center.

Much like last year, the virtual programs will occur “Live at 5” on Thursday evenings throughout June, July, and August – however this year will bring back the program’s original walking tour component (on a limited basis).

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Planning Commission Working on Two-year Mobility Study for Downingtown Area

Downingtown Borough and its surrounding municipalities have experienced significant growth in recent years, which is likely to continue in the years to come. The Chester County Planning Commission and the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission (DVRPC), working with eight municipalities, are wrapping up a two-year mobility study which serves to identify likely impacts of planned growth, projected growth and several transportation improvements – such as the relocation of the Downingtown Train Station. The findings will be presented during two online public meetings on 5/18 and 5/20. Meeting participants will review the study’s results and recommendations at several representative locations throughout the Downingtown area. More information about the study and registration for the public meetings can be found here:

Schyulkill River Trail Expansion

The Chester County Commissioners, in partnership with the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT), the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission (DVRPC), the Schuylkill River Greenways and the Circuit Trails Coalition, recently announced the groundbreaking on Chester County’s latest extension to the Schuylkill River Trail (SRT).

“Congratulations to Chester County’s Commissioners and staff for making this complicated and critically important trail project happen,” noted Patrick Starr, Executive Vice President, PA Environmental Council and Circuit Trails Coalition, Vice Chair. “The Schuylkill River Trail is one of the most important in Pennsylvania and is a priority of the Circuit Trails network here in the Philadelphia area. Completing gaps, like this one, improves what we refer to as ‘connectivity’ of the system and dramatically increases usage by giving through access to so many new users as well as current trail users.”

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Chester County Funding News

The Chester County Planning Commission helps to provide grant information and resources to Chester County’s municipalities, organizations, businesses, and residents. The following includes recent announcements from funding programs which support the “Connect” goal in Landscpaes3.

They include the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) Multimodal Transportation Fund, the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED) Multimodal Transportation Fund, and the DCED Greenways, Trails, and Recreation Program.

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CCWRA’s Municipal Stormwater Summit

The Chester County Water Resources Authority (CCWRA) hosted the county’s first virtual Municipal Stormwater Summit on Friday, April 16, from 9:00am – 11:00am.

Chester County Commissioners Marian Moskowitz and Michelle Kichline welcomed attendees to the Summit and highlighted Chester County’s legacy of land use and environmental planning and stewardship in their opening remarks. CCWRA’s Executive Director, Seung Ah Byun, then kicked off the presentations with an update on the county’s water conditions.

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2020 Protected Open Space Numbers – Continuing to Preserve Chester County

The Chester County Planning Commission tracks and reports the acreage of permanently protected open space within the county each year – including farmland, nature preserves and parks – through its Protected Open Space Tracking System (POST).

While there were many uncertainties throughout 2020, one thing that remained consistent is the county’s commitment to open space preservation. This past year, the POST findings indicated an addition of 2,100 acres protected in 2020 – bringing Chester County’s total to 144,000 acres, or 29.7% of the county’s total land protected. More acres were preserved in 2020 than in each of the previous two years, which is a significant accomplishment given the administrative and technological hurdles the pandemic caused.

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