- By Marcia E. Lynch
The Tompkins County Planning Department has released the draft 2015 Tompkins County Comprehensive Plan for public review. The Plan is available on the Department's website for review.
The Tompkins County Legislature first adopted a comprehensive plan in 2004. Entitled Tompkins County Comprehensive Plan: Planning for our Future that Plan contains principles, policies, and actions that have guided the County and other community members as they have made decisions that influence regional development, involve inter-governmental cooperation, and affect the quality of life in neighborhoods and communities. This first full update of the Comprehensive Plan addresses climate adaptation for the first time, restructures the strong communities section by also addressing healthy communities, adds the two overarching principles of fiscal responsibility and sustainability, and updates policy statements to make them more direct. The Plan recommends 28 specific action items to be initiated by County government within two years.
The Plan has been endorsed by the County's Planning Advisory Board and recommended by the Legislature's Planning, Energy, and Environmental Quality Committee for adoption. The County Legislature will conduct a public hearing on February 17 at their regular meeting, scheduled to begin at 5:30 in the Daniel D. Tompkins Building, 121 East Court Street, Ithaca, NY.
Previous Opportunities For Public Input
The public hearing represents the latest in several major public outreach efforts made during the preparation of the Plan. In the fall of 2013, the County conducted a survey asking about potential issues to address in the Plan. A second major public outreach effort was made in the spring of 2014 on the draft principles and policies for the Comprehensive Plan. And during October 2014, the first full draft of the Plan was put out for public review in a series of open houses. Also as part of its outreach efforts, Planning Department staff met with various groups including county advisory boards, business and economic development organizations, and local government groups.
Summary Of The Comprehensive Plan
The Tompkins County Comprehensive Plan presents a vision for the future of the community based on a set of principles that reflect community values as expressed by the County Legislature. Three of these principles, addressing Sustainability, Regional Cooperation, and Fiscal Responsibility, are overarching and reflected throughout the Plan. The remaining principles are topical and fall under the broad headings of the economy, housing, and transportation; the environment; climate change; and neighborhoods and communities. These topics are covered in detail in individual chapters, each of which contains: specific policies, a snapshot of existing conditions, a discussion of issues and opportunities, and a short list of actions the County intends to initiate within two years.
In rural areas, the Plan envisions a working landscape of farms and forests providing products and jobs that support a strong rural economy, while providing for management and protection of these resources to maintain their ability to sustain the community into the future. The working landscape will continue to be intertwined with a protected, and increasingly connected, network of natural areas that provide multiple benefits including clean water, outdoor recreation, and habitat for wildlife.
In the urban areas, including the City of Ithaca and villages, the Plan sees an increasing population largely resulting from infill and redevelopment projects providing housing choices and locations for businesses to start and grow. New housing will allow people to live closer to employment and serve an increased senior population as well as the younger workers needed to fill the jobs provided by both an expanding economy and the retirement of baby boomers.
In suburban areas, opportunities will continue for limited new development through infill and a few new higher density neighborhoods that may emerge in accordance with town plans. It will be important that these new areas develop at locations and densities that support existing or easily extended infrastructure, as well as transit routes and trail corridors that provide transportation options.
Rural, urban, and suburban areas will develop in ways that dramatically reduce greenhouse gas emissions. This will include new and renovated buildings that are much more energy efficient and incorporate both on-site and off-site renewable energy production. The transportation system will offer more choices that are less energy intensive, including modes utilizing renewable energy. Renewable energy will be generated in rural, suburban, and urban areas at appropriate sites and scales that together can provide a secure energy supply for community needs.
Altogether the Plan envisions a community where rural, suburban, and urban areas not only coexist but are mutually reinforcing. Together they will offer a broad range of living and working choices to county residents.