Chautauqua County continues work on Comprehensive Plan
By LIZ SKOCZYLAS
OBSERVER Mayville Bureau
When funding for a project in Chautauqua County is requested, it is not a random request; It is a part of a bigger, comprehensive plan.
The Chautauqua County Comprehensive Plan: Chautauqua 20/20, was adopted in April 2011. Since then, much progress has been made in implementing the plan’s recommendations.
“The planning commission, the county planning board, recognized that because the comprehensive plan hadn’t been done since the early ’90s, that is was probably time to look at what direction we were going in and do a new comprehensive plan,” said Mark Geise, Chautauqua County Department of Planning and Economic Development deputy director. “So, it was just because one was outdated, we felt it was essential for us to create a new plan so we had a clear direction where we were going.”
One of the reasons having a comprehensive plan in place is important, according to Geise, is for funding purposes. Having a plan allows everyone to be working toward the same goal, and allows for funding to be recognized.
“When you’re requesting funding, it’s not just a random request, it’s based on something,” Geise said.
The Chautauqua County Comprehensive Plan focuses on 15 different sectors of the county. Included are recommendations for Tourism and Cultural Resources; Agriculture and Foods; Business and Economic Development; Infrastructure and Public Investment; Education and Libraries; Workforce Development; Environment, Waste Management and Water Resources; Historic Preservation Architecture and Community Revitalization; Active Living and Recreation; Energy; Youth; Housing; Healthcare; Local Government; and Community Action, Human Services and Civic Organizations.
Recently, a Chautauqua County Comprehensive Plan: Chautauqua 20/20 newsletter was put out to provide updates in each of the sectors.
“For each of those 15 different focus areas, we had a focus group made up of experts in the community in that area, and then that newsletter is the top recommendations made by each one of those areas, and what the status is of those,” Geise said.
TOURISM AND CULTURAL RESOURCES
One of the items the county is looking to do is to brand itself as the “World’s Learning Center.” In order to do this, it was recommended that residents in the area be educated about the branding, in order to achieve making Chautauqua County a premier destination while maintaining its rural charm.
To achieve this, the Chautauqua County Visitor’s Bureau released the “Colors of Chautauqua Fall Learning Festival” in 2012, which offered dozens of learning vacation experiences throughout the county. A similar session is also held in June.
Another recommendation was to improve the county’s signage system, by developing a design guidebook for signage and GIS mapping, connected to GPS.
Both the visitor’s bureau and the department of planning and economic development have been working with a website programmer in order to develop a GPS tool, so visitors are able to search electronically for services and experiences based on their interests.
Finally, the third recommendation was to expand the county’s marketing efforts in order to attract more regional customers through targeted media advertising. The goal would be to reach residents in Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Southern Ontario, Buffalo, Rochester and Syracuse to visit Chautauqua County.
This has been implemented by advertising in these markets. Additionally, a PBS special has aired about Chautauqua Institution, and a telecast featuring U.S. Olympic skaters at the Jamestown Arena has been aired.
AGRICULTURE AND FOODS
In the agriculture and foods category, the county is looking to promote and encourage organic, specialty, value-added, small-scale and artisan food producers with incentive and support.
In order to accomplish this, many stakeholders have been working together to undertake a feasibility study for this project. It is also a project that will be considered in the $90 million NYSERDA Sustainability funding, which will be approved for the state over the course of three years.
The next recommendation is to build agri-tourism through the Grape Discovery Center, the “March for Maple” concept and additional tours at local food processors.
The Grape Discovery Center is planning to officially open May 25, according to its website. Additionally, another agricultural tour has been created in the county, which is the Farmer’s Market Tour.
The final recommendation in this category is to establish adequate and reliable funding sources for ag-supportive agencies.
According to the newsletter, the county has continued to fund Cornell Cooperative and the Soil and Water Conservation District at a high level, despite tight budgets.
“Because the county has been cutting back on resources, we do the best we can with what we have,” Geise said.
HISTORIC PRESERVATION, ARCHITECTURE AND COMMUNITY REVITALIZATION
One of the top recommendations for the Historic Preservation, Architecture and Community Revitalization sector is to support a countywide preservation officer and a grant writer, or just a grant writer, to work with the county historian and local entities to seek funding for historic projects.
Although the county financial resources are not available to employ a countywide preservation officer, the county historian is available to work with anyone wishing to promote historic preservation.
Another recommendation in this category is to complete and maintain a baseline countywide inventory of historic and cultural resources.
The newsletter says that the county historian maintains a database of existing historic markers in the county. Additionally, there are intentions of expanding upon it, as markers are installed and dedicated.
Finally, the third recommendation for this category is to create interpretive tour routes or maps of significant historical resources, such as cemeteries, barns, homes, sites, museums, shipwrecks and more. It is also recommended to use the “World’s Learning Center” brand for this.
The status of this recommendation is still in progress. The newsletters says the county maintains the database for future use as these projects come to fruition. And, GIS overlays for many of the county’s resources have been developed.
In healthcare, it was recommended that the integration of clinical health systems throughout the county be promoted. And, this is being accomplished through the chautauqua Region Associated Medical Partners, which was formed in March 2012.
The second recommendation for healthcare is to attract more medical professionals to the county by supporting improved community amenities, creating an endowment, or providing other incentives.
This is already underway, as WCA Hospital has received two Doctors Across New York Grants. Additionally, the Healthcare Action Team in Jamestown has established a fund to help offset physician recruitment costs. And, the Chautauqua County Health Network administers a health care professional workforce recruitment and retention endowment fund.
Also in this category, it was recommended to look into creating a healthcare-related corridor in Jamestown, as recommended in the Jamestown Urban Design Plan.
According to the newsletter, this is happening in an informal way. It has not been discussed in any professional manner, although it is often discussed in public.
EDUCATION AND LIBRARIES
One of the recommendations under the education and libraries category is to position schools as learning centers for the broader population, by offering community programs and service in schools.
The Library is already offering a “Critical Discussion Series” to discuss issues. Although the newsletter said the series is not looking to solve issues, it is a place for residents to gain information.
The second top recommendation in this category is to increase efforts to promote healthy lifestyles to youth.
Several initiatives for this are already underway, through the Chautauqua County Health Network, Cornell Cooperative Extension, BOCES, county schools and more.
The final recommendation for education and libraries is to continue county support of the Chautauqua County Library System.
The newsletter said the county has continued to fund the library system at 2009 levels, although it has had to reduce funding to other cultural venues due to budgetary constraints.
The first recommendation in the youth category of the comprehensive plan is to participate in and encourage the completion of the Comprehensive Integrated County Youth Services Plan, which will prioritize actions and programs.
According to the newsletter, the County Youth Board prioritizes programs based on the needs of youth at high risk and underprivileged. The committee continues to revise these goals and missions at their regular meetings.
Next, it was recommended to increase job opportunities for youth by using apprenticeships, internships and community service providers.
The newsletter said the Gebbie Foundation has funded a WIB-run internship program, as well as healthcare internship, healthcare career exploration and healthcare career fair programs. WIB has also ran several other programs throughout the area.
Finally, the third recommendation in this category is to improve access for youth to transportation by providing discount vouchers and other incentives for job or other positive community engagement activities.
This is being accomplished under the Human Services and Transportation Plan.
ENVIRONMENT, WASTE MANAGEMENT AND WATER RESOURCES
The top recommendation for this category is to reduce the impacts of development on environmental resources by utilizing sustainable development practices, including policies for storm water management, and to require or incentivize their implementation, especially in areas that impact Chautauqua Lake.
This is being implemented by educating local zoning and planning boards about the importance of incorporating sustainability principals in zoning laws and development projects.
The next recommendation is to develop proactive watershed level management plans, and adopt policies that apply to county governmental functions and operations. A Chautauqua Lake inter-municipal group was formed in order to accomplish this.
Additionally, the final recommendation is to complete an inventory of the county’s natural resources. This is being reviewed as part of the Chautauqua County Greenway Plan.
Defining what energy sustainability means for Chautauqua County is the first recommendation under the energy sector for the comprehensive plan.
This is being done by having an annual energy conference, hosted by the Chautauqua County Industrial Development Agency.
The second recommendation is to advocate for legislation that provides and promotes local energy production in order to generate local revenues, reduce economic costs and lower environmental impacts.
The County Legislator passed a resolution in support of gas hydrofracking in 2012, according to the newsletter. The CCIDA has also been working with several commercial wind farms to assist them with operations.
And, the final recommendation in the energy category is to promote and support waste-to-energy business opportunities. This is being accomplished by the CCIDA working on several projects involved with the conversation, as well as bio-fuel development.
COMMUNITY ACTION, HUMAN SERVICES AND CIVIC ORGANIZATIONS
Supporting increased affordable Internet access throughout the county for everyone is the first recommendation under this category.
A grant has been received to extend wireless broadband throughout Chautauqua and Cattaraugus counties, especially in rural areas.
The next recommendation is to work with all current transportation providers, to explore opportunities to collaborate and expand public transportation.
This is being done by working with CARTS and other human service and private agencies, which are implementing the “County-Wide Coordinated Human Service Transportation Plan.”
The final recommendation in this category is to help create a mechanism to connect civic organizations with local leaders for the purpose of building membership and sharing information.
To accomplish this, the Northern Chautauqua Community Foundation recently became involved in supporting the initiatives of the Local Economic Development Group in the north county, according to the newsletter.
BUSINESS AND ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT
The first recommendation offered for business and economic development in the plan is to partner with several public and private stakeholders to retain and expand business in Chautauqua County.
According to the newsletter, this initiative is on-going. Monthly meetings occur in order to continually work on this recommendation.
Targeting economic sectors where the county has strong local assets to build on is the second recommendation in this category. Recently, the CCIDA created a new interactive website, which helps to accomplish this goal.
And, third, proactively marketing the CCIDA’s “Adaptive Re-use Projects” and “Tourism Destination Projects” tax abatement funding program to targeted industries in order to adapt old structures for new purposes and to attract tourism-related businesses to locate in the county is the third recommendation. This recommendation is also currently being actively marketed by the CCIDA.
The first recommendation for workforce development is to provide targeted workforce education and training to high-skilled positions. This is being accomplished through a variety of different businesses and organizations throughout Chautauqua County, working together toward this common goal.
The next recommendation is to develop an integrated, cost-effective and non-duplicative service delivery plan to move county residents from low income status to self sufficiency. The task forces from the first recommendation have developed three strategies in order to accomplish this goal.
Developing the county’s talent pipeline, including encouraging former residents to return and encouraging young talent to stay, is the third recommendation.
To accomplish this, an internship program is in place, which allows people to experience careers in the area.
A recommendation for housing in the plan is to investigate property management and land banking opportunities, in order to identify and strategically remove existing, derelict properties.
The Department of Planning and Economic Development applied to the state and was chosen as one of the first five land banks in the state.
“We were saying back several years ago, even before the state legislation came out, to create these landbanks, that we should look into landbanking,” Geise said. “What it really did is it got us really working toward that. All of a sudden, the state says, ‘Hey, we’re going to create five or 10 landbanks in the state.’ It wasn’t like we were starting from scratch, we had already done a lot of work, so when that came out, it was like, ‘Oh, we’re in a good position to be one of the first to do this.’ So, it really prepped us to implement it.”
The second recommendation is to enhance the county’s ability to support reinvestment in market rate housing, by implementing a pilot IDA tax abatement initiative for the redevelopment of vacant commercial buildings into mixed-use projects.
This is already being implemented, as the CCIDA provides tax-lease and PILOT incentives for projects involving market-rate apartments.
The final recommendation for the housing sector is to promote the implementation of urban revitalization efforts in Jamestown and Dunkirk.
The Land Bank is working with Jamestown to implement recommendations from the Neighborhood Revitali-zation Plan, in order to accomplish this.
ACTIVE LIVING AND RECREATION
Developing a new model for oversight and maintenance of parks, trails and waterways throughout the county is one of the recommendations for active living and recreation under the comprehensive plan. The Chautauqua County Greenway Plan, which was completed in mid-2012, in order to work toward this.
Another recommendation is to complete a four-season, multi-use greenway train system throughout the county, which is also covered under the Greenway Plan. According to the newsletter, six of the 10 demonstration projects identified in the plan are currently in some state of being developed.
The final recommendation in the active living and recreation category is to work with the New York state Department of Environmental Conserv-ation and other organizations to improve fisheries, maintain and improve fishing and boating opportunities.
Already, this has been underway in the last year, as a fishing reality television show was filmed on Chautauqua Lake.
Under the local government category, the first recommendation is to complete an integrated countywide efficiency study to identify potential areas for increased shared services and local government consolidation.
This is already being looked at by a Highway Efficiency Study. Additionally, the County Planning Board is examining regional policing, and the county and city of Jamestown are exploring consolidating forces.
The second recommendation is to coordinate development efforts between the county and local governments. The newsletter said the CCIDA continues to seek input from all taxing jurisdictions for specific proposed projects.
Finally, the third recommendation is to support local governments with information and other resources, in order to provide them with better decision-making tools in order to foster better local solutions and counter unfunded state mandates.
Several public sessions have been held during the development of the plan, according to the newsletter.
The final recommendation is to support local governments with information and other resources to provide them with better decision-making tools in order to foster better local solutions and counter unfunded state mandates. According to the newsletter, several public sessions have been held regarding this.
INFRASTRUCTURE AND PUBLIC INVESTMENT
Implementing recommendations based on a cost/benefit analysis of community infrastructure and services in currently underway to determine cost-saving measures throughout the county is the first recommendation for infrastructure and public investment.
Already, County Executive Greg Edwards has held public meeting regarding consolidation issues. However, according to the newsletter, many of the recommendations have been met with significant resistance.
The second recommendation is to work with the Department of Transportation and other to make changes to Route 60. However, Geise himself has driven the route with a NYS DOT representative, who did not find a problem with the area.
Finally, the third recommendation for the comprehensive plan under infrastructure and public investment is to look at the county airports for improvements.
The county has already been seeking ways to increase ridership, especially through the Jamestown airport location. Additionally, it is evaluating events held at the airports.
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“The more people who are aware of the fact that we’re really trying hard here to really create a vision – which is what the comprehensive plan has done for us, create a vision based on what the community has communicated to us that they want – and then we do what’s necessary to go toward that goal (the better),” Geise said.
A hard-copy version is available by contacting the County Planning Department, and an electronic version may be viewed at: www.planningchautauqua.com. Click on Comprehensive Plan, Final Report, 2013 Status Newsletter. Geise can be reached at 661-8912 for additional copies of the plan or information.