If you’re a municipal official in Chester County who is wondering how you can implement Landscapes3, the county’s newly adopted comprehensive plan, the Chester County Planning Commission has suggestions for ways to do that through your ordinances that strengthen preservation, encourage smart growth, and improve the character of new development.
Planning Commission staff members recently described these suggestions to municipal officials during a Chester County Association of Township Officials’ (CCATO) conference. Municipalities can use their zoning and subdivision ordinances to implement the plan, which focuses on balancing growth and preservation with six goal areas: Preserve, Protect, Appreciate, Live, Prosper, and Connect.
Planning Commission Technical Services Division Director Paul Fritz provided an overview of the Landscapes Map, which was updated to reflect existing development and preservation in our communities, as well as proposed and planned development projects and preservation efforts. He explained the features of the growth areas: urban centers, suburban centers, suburban, and rural centers. He also discussed the rural resource areas that include rural and agricultural. In addition, Fritz described the Landscapes Map overlays which include “significant historic landscapes” and “significant natural landscapes.” (See slides 4-11 of Planning Commission’s PowerPoint presentation from the CCATO conference.)
Planning Commission Assistant Director Carol Stauffer discussed ways local municipalities can handle Landscapes3 through the Preserve goal, which focuses on advancing the protection and stewardship of open space, farmland, and natural and cultural features to realize economic, ecological, and quality of life benefits. Municipalities can implement this goal area through open space ordinances such as agricultural zoning, transfer of development rights, and cluster zoning. (See slides 13-20.)
Stauffer also explained ways municipalities can implement the Protect goal, which focuses on protecting and restoring critical natural resources to ensure a resilient environment that supports healthy communities. Municipalities can consider using natural resource ordinances to tackle this goal area, such as riparian corridors, woodland protection, steep slope protection, wetland protection, and habitat protection. (See slides 21-30.)
Planning Commission Planning Services Division Director Susan Elks shared information about how to tackle the Appreciate goal, which focuses on preserving the historic resources and landscapes that define our cultural heritage to inspire the future tangible connections to our shared past. Elks said it’s important to update historic resource inventories and encourage the appropriate adaptive reuse. Some tools municipalities can consider are historic preservation ordinances with bonuses for reuse, village districts, and downtown districts. (See slides 31-38.)
In addition, Elks discussed the Live goal, which focuses on nurturing diverse and well-rounded communities with a balance of residential opportunities and convenient access to community facilities, services, and amenities. She said municipalities can consider using ordinances that include bonus densities for provision of affordable housing, accessory unit regulations, and alternative housing types. (See slides 38-45.)
Planning Commission Executive Director Brian O’Leary shared tips for how to tackle the Prosper goal, which focuses on growing our economic strength through developing and sustaining a skilled workforce, adaptable work areas, supportive infrastructure, a culture of innovation, and engaged communities. Some of the alternative non-residential ordinances include office park reinvention, brownfields development, greyfields development, and transit oriented development. (See slides 46-51.)
Planning Commission Transportation Services Division Director Brian Styche shared information on the Connect goal, which focuses on advancing efficient, reliable, and innovative transportation, utility, and communications infrastructure systems that responsibly serve thriving and growing communities. He provided tips to municipal officials about active transportation ordinances, including sidewalk and pedestrian standards, bike lanes and facilities, and trails. (See slides 52-59.)
Toward the end of the presentation at the CCATO conference, O’Leary encouraged all municipalities to endorse Landscapes3.
“I think if we’re all on the same page together we can be more effective,” he said.