Tag Archives: Land Use Planning

Syracuse 2010 Revisited: Land Use Planning Challenges

The Syracuse-Onondaga County Planning Agency  is in the process of updating Onondaga County’s  11-year old 2010 Development Guide –  a plan that calls for investment in existing communities, sustainable urban and suburban settlement patterns, preservation of infrastructure and transportation assets, and protection of agricultural land and the natural environment.  The update will take into account demographic and development trends and develop new policies for sustainable growth.

The 2010 Guide is just that, a guide; implementation of the plan requires compliance by the towns, villages, and city, and the individuals and businesses that compose the county.  Megan Costa, who heads Planning Services for SOCPA, gave OCL a look at some of the regional trends and challenges at our October 20 study session.

Since 2000, almost 7,000 new residential parcels were created in the County, including 147 major subdivisions over 2,600 acres.  All of this occurred with no new population growth.  Average home size is up 40 percent in 20 years (even as family size decreases). Average lot size for units built inside the sanitary district is almost one acre. The number of rural acres used per new housing unit is almost three times the national average for metro areas.

From 2001-2008, water infrastructure expanded to include 290 miles of new water main, 15 new pumping stations, and 13 new storage facilities.  In 2007, more than 57,000 feet of new sewer pipe was installed for new developments. Since 1998, the county added more than 12,000 acres to the sanitary district. At the same time, we also have a massive network of aging water and sewer pipes, capacity and overflow issues, challenges serving rural areas, and new federal and state permitting requirements. Since 2000, we have added 61 miles of road, mostly residential streets.  Daily vehicle use is up 43 percent since 1990.

We have lost farmland, increased our carbon footprint, generated demand for new tax-supported public facilities and services, and abandoned neighborhoods, buildings and job centers in the city and inner ring suburbs.   Are we ready to choose a new definition of progress?

Health Care and Sustainability

Once again Michael Pollan has succinctly hit the nail on the head regarding America’s food policy, linking the health care debate and agribusiness  in his September 9, 2009 Op-Ed piece in the NYT, “Big Food v. Big Insurance”.   He makes the point that in order to control health care costs, we must improve health, reducing the growing rates of preventable chronic dieseases, many of which are linked to diet.  Changing what America eats  means changing the way we allocate resources – including land – for growing food.

resid farm 3Pollan references the findings of a team of designers from M.I.T. and Columbia who were asked by UnitedHealthcare’s foundation to come up with the best way to tackle childhood obesity in America. “Their conclusion surprised the designers as much as their sponsor: they determined that promoting the concept of a ‘foodshed’ — a diversified, regional food economy — could be the key to improving the American diet.”

What is an Ecosystem and Why is It Important?

urban footprint
When we talk about “being green” in Central New York what we really mean is living in better partnership with our ecosystem.  So what is an ecosystem and why is it important?

Simply speaking, an ecosystem consists of all the living organisms – plants, animals, microorganisms – functioning together with all the physical elements in a particular environment. Seemingly simple, yet exceedingly complex, especially when human settlements enter the environment.

To put a framework around much of our future discussion of sustainability including green building, alternative energy, green products, and more, we’ll begin our exploration of “What Does It Mean to be Green?” with a discussion of Ecosystems and Sustainable Human Settlements with Professors Emanuel Carter and Richard Smardon of the SUNY College of Environmental Science & Forestry. The study session, which is free and open to all, is on Tuesday, September 15 from 5:00 – 6:30 PM in 409 Marshall Hall on the SUNY ESF campus For more information, contact OCL at ocl@syr.edu or 315.443.4846.