Over the years, Chester County has made many strides to promoting environmentally-sustainable practices and standards throughout our communities. Now that we’ve made our way into 2021, communities should consider reassessing their current efforts to ensure the best “green” practices for residents and businesses both now, and into the future. The following three eTools provide ideas for saving energy and promoting green development practices.
With so much growth throughout Chester County’s suburban centers in recent years and with more growth expected, our communities are facing many challenges and must prepare for the new growth that is coming. To assist with these efforts, the Chester County Planning Commission is excited to present the new Suburban Center Landscapes Design Guide! This guide provides planning and design guidance for new development in corridors, underutilized shopping centers, older office and business parks, and infill locations within Chester County’s Suburban Center landscapes.
It is challenging to recap a year like 2020, since it was such an unprecedented and challenging year. We are happy to report that the Planning Commission was able to pivot and quickly adapt by working remotely. Despite the difficulties of the year, we also continued to implement Landscpaes3 successfully, working with our partners and the public to keep Chester County a great place for our residents, businesses, and visitors. Here are a few highlights of our accomplishments in 2020, organized by the Landscapes vision and our six goals.
What planning project is your community ready to get started on? The first round of the Vision Partnership Program (VPP), Chester County’s municipal planning grant program, will open January 6, 2021. The deadline for applications is February 19, 2020 at 4 pm. Eligible projects include individual and multi-municipal comprehensive plans, ordinances, official maps, and a variety of studies. Efforts such as village master plans, trail feasibility studies, revitalization plans, historic preservation planning, stewardship plans, transportation studies, and sustainability/resilience plans are eligible project types.
Details and the application can be found online in the Municipal Corner of our website. Applications are to be submitted online by February 19th at 4 pm. Pre-application meetings with the Grant Administrator are strongly encouraged. Please contact Grant Administrator Susan Elks at 610-344-6285 or firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule a pre-application meeting or with any questions.
This past year, the Brandywine Conservancy celebrated the 10th anniversary of the Brandywine Creek Greenway regional planning initiative, which plays an important role in the lives of an estimated 500,000 people who live in its watershed, and has continued to do so for hundreds of years. “Over the past decade, much progress has been made so that we can walk, ride, hike and/or float along the many trails of the Greenway, as well as connect with the larger network of The Circuit Trails and share this space with conserved habitat that protects wildlife and natural resources,” noted the Brandywine Conservancy’s Director, Ellen M. Ferretti, in her 2020 Director’s Report. “With much work still to be done, it’s exciting to think of what lies ahead in the next decade and beyond!”
While partners were unable to physically gather to honor the Greenway initiative’s 10th anniversary due to COVID-19, the Brandywine Conservancy instead hosted a virtual “Experience the Brandywine” photo contest, which launched in October and featured 131 original photos submitted by individuals across the region. All of the photos can be found here. The Brandywine Conservancy also launched their first round of the Brandywine Creek Greenway Mini-grant program in November, with funds totaling $40,000 to support seven municipalities. Learn more at Brandywine Conservancy’s website.
Among the six goals in Chester County’s comprehensive plan, Landscapes3, measuring how we “live” is one of the most important aspects when it comes to the day-to-day lives of the county’s 525,000-plus residents. Our neighborhoods, schools, community services, parks, and recreational facilities help us determine how we spend our days, and often times, where we want to spend our future as well.
Chester County’s dedication to “nurture diverse and well-rounded communities with a balance of residential opportunities and convenient access to community facilities, services, and amenities,” is evident in a number of ways throughout the county. In fact, there were a number of projects and initiatives that were completed in 2019 to support this goal, as well as many ongoing efforts.
When it comes to the future of Chester County, planning for our trails, bridges, highways, and public transit options is a major component to the county’s success. The Chester County Planning Commission’s Environment and Infrastructure Division focuses their attention on these efforts, and this month, we’re highlighting their Division Director, Brian Styche!
On a typical day, Brian can be found working on various transportation projects throughout the county. “I have the opportunity to work with a lot of great people at the Planning Commission, as well as with other agencies, counties, and municipalities to plan for the future and keep things moving forward in Chester County,” he said.
Continuing to focus on supporting homes for all community members, the Chester County Planning Commission hosted public sessions on housing for an aging population and housing construction costs. The “A+ Homes Forum” took place on Tuesday, November 17, and Thursday, November 19, with more than 75 people who attended the virtual Zoom sessions.
Chester County Commissioner Josh Maxwell attended Tuesday’s session, providing opening remarks regarding the county’s aging population. “Our county is working together to serve all of our residents, including and especially, our senior population,” noted Maxwell. “We have a number of departments such as our Aging Services Department, the Department of Community Development, and the Planning Commission, which are all offering unique services and programs to help ensure safe and quality housing for our senior population.”
In this new COVID-19 world we’ve been living in, working from home has become more of a necessity than ever before. While “Home-based Businesses” have been around for many years, home based work and businesses have experienced a significant increase over the past nine months due to the pandemic, and they are anticipated to continue to grow (in both popularity and convenience) well into the post-COVID era.
Home-based businesses can be categorized as “no-impact” or “major-impact,” depending on their function, but regardless, must remain secondary to the building’s primary use as a residential dwelling. Municipalities can address home-based businesses in their planning policies and zoning ordinances, which include community benefits such as increased economic base, support for an aging population, expanded use of existing infrastructure, reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, and reduced neighborhood conflicts.
Just over two years ago, on November 29, 2018, the Chester County Commissioners voted unanimously to adopt the long-awaited Landscapes3 – Chester County’s newly updated comprehensive plan. The updated plan provides an outline for what the county is expected to look like by the year 2045. Within the plan are six goal areas – preserve, protect, appreciate, live, prosper, and connect – each of which speaks to, and serves to protect, the county’s natural features, landscape, and quality of life.