WEST VINCENT >> Chester County officials are continuing to draft a vision for the county’s future that balances preservation and growth, known as Landscapes3, and they are asking for the public’s input along the way.
As part of the process, the Chester County Planning Commission is conducting a series of public meetings about Landscapes3, the county’s next long-range comprehensive plan — the first of which took place on March 6 at the Henrietta Hankin Library. The Planning Commission is seeking feedback on the plan’s draft goals, objectives, and map.
“The Landscapes3 Steering Committee continues to make great progress and get into the core goals,” said David Brant, an East Goshen resident and steering committee member who has a background in architecture and real estate. “The goal of tonight – and for all the public meetings – is to get public input. We take it all in.”
Brant participated in an interactive map activity during the open house portion of the meeting, which allowed people to point out aspects of Chester County that are important to them. He talked about how he enjoys the downtown areas in the county, such as Malvern, but also appreciates the scenic views along the Chester Valley Trail.
During a visit to one of the map stations, Downingtown residents Matthew and Suzanne Roberson said they support preservation in Chester County, including places like the Trestle Bridge in Downingtown. Suzanne Roberson added that she wants to see more open space preservation that is strictly for passive recreation “for people who don’t always want to see asphalt trails.”
“We need a mix of everything – preservation as well as economic development,” said Uwchlan Township Manager Doug Hanley. “They have a tendency to feed off each other; I know they have here.”
Jim Buczala, chairman of the East Brandywine Township Historical Commission and a member of the township’s planning commission, said he believes there needs to be funding for historic resources. He’d also like to see language in Landscapes3 that focuses on educating the public about the importance of historic resources and provides some guidance to municipalities on this.
“Chester County is home to one of the strongest economies in Pennsylvania,” said Neal Fisher, a steering committee member and the vice president of development for the Hankin Group, a real estate development company. “With well-planned land use, it has become a place where people want to live and businesses want to locate. As part of Landscapes3, it is important for us as the steering committee, to guide a balance between housing, business, and open space. When properly integrated, an optimal community with positive impacts on business, schools, municipalities, residences, and the environment will be achieved. Eagleview is a perfect example of this type of sustainable community.”
The open house portion of the meeting also included stations about the core goals of Landscapes3: preserve, protect, appreciate, live, prosper, and connect. Different planners were available at each of the stations to answer residents’ questions about the topics.
During the formal presentation portion of the meeting, Chester County Commissioners’ Vice Chair Kathi Cozzone said that through the original and current version of Landscapes, the county was “able to redirect growth, preserve land, improve our transportation system, and strengthen our towns.”
“These accomplishments were achieved through leadership and partnership; qualities that will continue to be necessary for our communities to thrive,” Cozzone said. “The task before us now is to continue balancing preservation and growth in light of the opportunities and challenges that face Chester County. To do this, we are seeking to engage all of our communities in ways that embrace place and enhance choices.”
Cozzone stressed the importance of residents and municipal officials providing comments on the plan’s draft goals, objectives, and maps.
“Tonight and over the course of this spring please give us feedback,” she said. “Community input is critical to ensuring a plan that reflects the entirety of the county, and that serves us well as we move forward.”
Chester County Planning Commission Executive Director Brian O’Leary said Landscapes3 will address future growth projections for the county, including 146,000 new residents, 55,000 more homes, 88,000 more jobs, and 64,000 more senior citizens by 2045. He said some of the key issues that stakeholders have identified include affordable housing, purchase and stewardship of open space, transportation alternatives, stream impairments, and zoning flexibility. In addition, he said open space and the environment was the top priority identified by nearly 6,000 people who took the Landscapes3 public survey last year.
O’Leary said the county’s comprehensive plan will provide guidance to municipalities on growth and preservation for the next 10 years. It also will guide county government actions and address issues that transcend local municipal boundaries.
Over 50 people attended the recent meeting including stakeholders, municipal officials, Landscapes3 Steering Committee members, and residents, ranging from a 13-year-old to senior citizens. In addition to Cozzone, other officials who attended the meeting included state Rep. Carolyn Comitta, D-156, of West Chester, and Planning Commission board member Michael Heaberg.
There will be three additional public meetings this spring, which will take place from 5:30-7:30 p.m. at the following locations: New Garden Township Building located at 299 Starr Road in Landenberg on April 10; Penn State Great Valley located at 30 E. Swedesford Road in Malvern on May 1; and the Public Safety Training Campus located at 137 Modena Road in Coatesville on May 16.
To view the Landscapes3 draft map, goals, and objectives, visit: http://chescoplanning.org/CompPlan.cfm.
Danielle Lynch, a former award-winning journalist, is a communications specialist for the Chester County Planning Commission.