If you’d like to critique this proposal, participate in the development of this effort, make suggestions, please contact the Alliance!
Proposal Re: Development of a Sustainable Land Use Template for Municipalities (presented at Land Use Dialogue #2: Workshop on Effecting Change, 6/18/2005).
The original proposal re: a land use template was that we generate five or six basic ideas/strategies that promote sustainable land use to bring to the governing bodies, planning commissions, zoning boards, school boards, environmental advisory councils of each municipality in the greater Lehigh Valley.
I. Why are we doing this?
A. For those of us interested in working on land use/management/stewardship issues, development and use of such a template would provide us with a way of doing work that would empower all of us.
B. For the municipalities, a sustainable land use dog-and-pony show could help municipalities move in the right direction, further developing their own approaches to sustainable land use.
II. How do we start? We need to come to agreement about our goals:
A. Our comprehensive goals: are we in agreement? Are we concerned about preserving natural lands and farmlands, providing parks and playing fields, preventing unnecessary uses (like residential sprawl, mushrooming malls), providing more sensible transportation (public transit, bike trails), and using older spaces (keeping neighborhood schools, reusing abandoned property, enriching urban cultural life)? Do these five points summarize what we want:
1. A self-reliant region that seeks to control its own economy as far is practicable, providing everyone in the region with the necessities of life and trading surplus production for goods and services available outside the region (from Shuman’s Going Local). This would include:
2. Treating farmland, rural communities, natural areas, and urban areas as mutually supporting and integrated components of the total environment we need to sustain us.
3. Preservation of farmland, supporting agriculture as an essential component of the self-sustaining, regional economy, in which profitable farms produce healthy food locally for the people of our region while respecting our natural environment.
4. Preservation of natural areas, recognizing that “green spaces” are of great ecological (and economic) importance for our water, air quality, biological communities, and the land itself.
5. Renewal of cities, making them again places where people want to live, vibrant centers with the kinds urban life that Thomas Hylton has written about.
III. What would the template look like? The template would include a statement of our goals, references to the goals of the municipalities, etc, themselves, and a presentation of the tools that can get us to sustainable land use, with the notion that the how – the specific steps to be taken – is to come from the municipalities, COGs, counties, themselves. About the tools: many ideas are presented in work that has already been done – from non-profit organizations to government agencies:
1. Getting sustainable land use/management/stewardship goals into municipal plans: Municipalities use comprehensive plans to define what they want.
2. Checking decisions against comprehensive goals: The presence of infrastructure will influence the type and nature of land use: if municipal water and sewer is provided in rural communities it will lead to sprawl – is that the goal? Similar thinking can be applied to extending/widening roads into rural townships; mass transit as a means of renewing cities, etc.
3. Zoning ordinances can be effective in furthering comprehensive goals. An example from the LVPC’s Comprehensive Plan, 2005 re: agricultural protection: “In Heidelberg and Lynn townships, property owners are limited to subdivision of 10% of their property for non-agricultural purposes. This has helped to reduce development pressure in these townships.”
IV. How would we work?
A. Who are we? At the moment, an ad hoc working group of the Alliance working on behalf of all organizations/individuals concerned about land use. We need to defuse any danger of turf wars.
B. We need to have representation from/network with the various organizations already working on aspects of sustainable land use: we need the thinking, the experience, the activism of those working on trash and solid waste management, drinking water, waterways, natural areas, reclamation projects, hiking trails, downtown improvement, farmers’ markets, buy fresh-buy local campaigns, sustainable local businesses, light rail, and so on.
C. We need to become knowledgeable about the goals and policies of municipalities and larger regional entities: what’s in the existing comprehensive plans, zoning practices, land preservation policies, etc, of individual municipalities, of COGs (Councils of Government, i.e., inter-municipal bodies), of counties, of the LVPC, of PA’s municipal planning code, etc?
D. We need to organize not only regionally but very importantly on the local level as well: we need to involve residents of the municipalities in planning and implementation – satisfying solutions are generated by local people working to solve their own problems.