At the October 2nd public Sunshine Meeting, the Chester County Commissioners presented a proclamation for National Community Planning Month, recognizing the efforts of local, county, and regional planners who manage the growth and change of Chester County, providing better choices for how residents work and live.
During the presentation of the proclamation, the Commissioners highlighted Landscapes3, the county’s next long-range comprehensive plan, as an example of community planning.
Landscapes3 seeks to continue the balance of preservation with growth and recommits to core principles that will position the county and its municipalities for success, including resource preservation, revitalized urban and suburban centers, housing diversity, transportation choices, collaboration, and resiliency.
“Landscapes3 will renew our commitment to balancing growth and preservation while embracing the unique characteristics of our county,” said Chester County Commissioners’ Chair Michelle Kichline, adding that the plan builds upon the original award-winning Landscapes plan that was adopted over 20 years ago.
Commissioner Kichline noted that projections show Chester County will be the fastest growing county in southeastern Pennsylvania in the next 30 years with 30 percent more residents, jobs, and housing units. While anticipated growth continues to exert pressure, it also provides an opportunity to apply planning principles that embrace places, enhance choices, and engage communities as the county continues to advance balance growth and preservation.
“This plan will guide well-designed and compatible growth to the county’s urban and suburban centers,” Commissioner Kichline said. “It also provides a framework for expansion of pedestrian and bicycle networks and public transit, which will give our residents, workforce, and visitors more transportation choices.”
Landscapes3, which is slated for adoption later this year, has been a collaborative process in which county officials and planners gathered input from municipal officials, residents, business owners, and other stakeholders.
“The plan promotes effective multi-municipal and partner cooperation,” noted Commissioner Kathi Cozzone. “It also recommits to protecting the county’s open spaces, natural resources, and historic landscapes. To date, 28 percent of the county has been permanently preserved as open space.”
The theme of this year’s Community Planning Month is housing as community infrastructure and focuses on the importance of providing safe and affordable housing options for all residents. Landscapes3 addresses housing with multiple recommendations; all ranked as either a very high or high priority.
“Landscapes3 calls for diverse and affordable housing that meets the needs of all residents,” stated Commissioner Terence Farrell. “Landscapes3 also promotes actions to build community resiliency, which will help the county respond to changing markets, technology, and environmental forces.”
Development of Landscapes3 was guided by a steering committee of 27 members who volunteered their time and expertise. Across the state, over 10,000 Pennsylvanians serve on municipal planning commissions to enhance the quality of life in their communities. In Chester County, about 500 residents serve on municipal planning commissions, and the county has a nine-member volunteer Planning Commission board.
Related to Community Planning Month, this year marks the 50th anniversary of the adoption of the Pennsylvania Municipalities Planning Code (MPC). The MPC has provided Pennsylvania municipal governments with a uniform tool to use in the performance of their duties and responsibilities pertaining to land use. Prior to the MPC, local governments planned independently through their respective municipal codes.
The MPC provides a variety of planning opportunities to municipalities, including Official Maps to reserve land for future public improvements; Traditional Neighborhood Development to create walkable communities; natural resource standards to protect resources; site-responsive development to balance growth and preservation; Transferrable Development Rights to direct growth to appropriate areas; guidance on multi-municipal planning efforts; and impact fees to mitigate traffic issues.