WEST CHESTER, PA — October is National Community Planning Month and in recognition of this, the Chester County Commissioners will be issuing a proclamation noting the importance of local planning, especially as it relates to economic resiliency and sustainability in Chester County.
“We are grateful that the Commissioners recognize the value of community planning, given our position as the fastest growing county in the Commonwealth, population-wise,” said Chester County Planning Commission Executive Director Brian O’Leary.
“A focus on planning is crucial, especially the ways in which a comprehensive community plan can help our municipalities navigate the changes brought on by the pandemic, and the need to focus on reducing our carbon footprint,” O’Leary added.
Through the direction of Chester County’s Comprehensive Plan, Landscapes3, the Chester County Planning Commission has introduced initiatives over the past year that address and support resiliency and sustainability.
Last October, Chester County adopted a Climate Action Plan to meet the county’s goal of reducing greenhouse emissions, mitigating impacts of climate change, and transitioning to clean and sustainable energy. The plan identifies objectives and actions under the categories of building and energy; transportation and land use; waste management; and agriculture, food, and forestry. The County Commissioners also created the Chester County Environmental and Energy Advisory Board (EEAB), and appointed members to guide and implement the Climate Action Plan.
Chester County also created a new Sustainability Division, led by the Planning Commission’s Rachael Griffith. Rachael assists county departments, municipalities, and other stakeholders in meeting the County’s goals for sustainability, clean energy, greenhouse gas reduction, resource protection, and public outreach and communications. The Sustainability Division recently launched an eNewsletter which features countywide sustainability programs, a municipal spotlight, events and training, funding opportunities and resource of the month initiatives.
The new Schuylkill River Passenger Rail Authority (SRPRA), formed earlier this year, has Chester County joining with Berks and Montgomery Counties to restore passenger rail service from Reading to Philadelphia. The SRPRA has the power to formalize agreements, pursue funding opportunities and partner with rail operators and state and federal transportation agencies. “While the creation of the SRPRA is not a guarantee that passenger rail will return, it serves as a crucial next step to continue the long process of research and planning,” noted Brian O’Leary.
Another key community planning initiative introduced this year is Chester County’s Complete Streets Policy, which provides guidance for municipalities on how streets may be planned, designed, retrofitted, and maintained to allow for travel in a safe, convenient, and comfortable manner for all users, regardless of their transportation mode. With so many travelers on the road, it is important for municipalities to adopt or endorse the County policy or define and adopt a similar policy of their own. To date, nine Chester County municipalities have adopted Chester County’s Complete Streets Policy.
This past summer, Chester County launched a new road safety awareness campaign to remind pedestrians, bicyclists, and drivers to stay alert while sharing lanes. The Walk. Ride. Drive. Safe campaign includes simple social media messages and illustrations that remind travelers how to remain safe in whatever way they are travelling.
Finally, Chester County’s first Agricultural Economic Development Strategic Plan was adopted in March, and was created to guide the future growth of Chester County’s critical agricultural economy. At the time of the Plan’s adoption, Commissioners’ Chair Marian Moskowitz noted, “Agriculture is such a significant part of our county’s heritage, culture and landscape, and in the face of increasing competition for use of land, we are working hard to ensure our farming remains vibrant and strong.” The Plan focuses on six strategic areas including agricultural markets; business & financing; education & outreach; labor & workforce; land access; and zoning & land use. At more than $712 million in annual sales, Chester County’s ag industry ranks second among all 67 counties in Pennsylvania, and the new Plan is an important factor in sustaining – and growing – Chester County’ ag industry.
“These latest Planning Commission initiatives lead to safer, more resilient, more equitable, and more prosperous communities in Chester County, and could not be done without the work of our dedicated planners,” concluded Brian O’Leary.
To learn more about the American Planning Association’s National Community Planning Month, visit https://www.planning.org/ncpm/.
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