Tag Archives: zoning

One Region Forward – Likely Without You

30 Jan

Last night, something called the “Community Congress” as part of a new regional planning effort called “One Region Forward” was held at Babeville. First I heard of it was when I started seeing pictures and Tweets about it as it was going on.

Admittedly, this is partly my own fault, since both the Buffalo News and Buffalo Rising had regurgitated key points from its press release in the last week, but regionalism and regional planning are things that I’m extremely interested in – I think it’s a huge component of what may be WNY’s improvement, if not renaissance. 

So, given that I pay at least marginally more attention to this stuff than the average person, I was genuinely disappointed that I knew nothing about it, and had no idea that it was going on. It was, however, well-attended, so that’s why I’m so surprised. One way the effort could have gotten the word out would have been to follow lots of people on Twitter – the moment you get followed by a local regionalism congress, chances are you’d check it out. Instead, as of this morning, it’s following 39 people. On Facebook, it has a paltry 208 followers.  That’s a crappy job getting the word out, if you ask me. Given that we have more marketing, PR, and social media experts per capita than we deserve, this is amazing to me.

UPDATE: I learned today that no one at the Erie Canal Harbor Development Corporation knew about it at all. 

So, what’s this all about? 

 One Region Forward is an effort to better plan how we grow or shrink western New York through a collaborative process; a way to reduce wasteful sprawl without population growth that wastes resources and empties existing communities, rather than trying to repair or reverse their stressors. It is a huge issue that is fraught with difficulty related to racism and classism. From the press release, 

The regional vision will help guide development of One Region Forward, an initiative aimed at ensuring long-term economic prosperity, environmental quality, and community strength across the two counties and 64 municipalities of the Buffalo Niagara Region.

“We will face enormous challenges as a region in the 21st century,” Hal Morse, executive director of the Greater Buffalo Niagara Regional Transportation Council said. “Where we work, how we get around, what kind of neighborhoods we live in, and many other aspects of our daily lives – even where we get our food and water – will be under pressure. One Region Forward is about repositioning our assets to support long-term sustainable growth and development.”

The One Region Forward effort is building on a series of recent planning initiatives aimed at reviving the Buffalo Niagara economy, reducing our regional “carbon footprint,” regenerating core cities of Buffalo and Niagara Falls, developing the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus, and growing the University at Buffalo, among others.

“We’re not starting from scratch,” Howard A. Zemsky, chair of the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority, a leading partner in the effort, and co-chair of the Regional Economic Development Council, said. “Our commitment is to make sure that all the plans for our region are working toward the same ends.”

Discussions at the Community Congresses will build on recent planning work in the region – not just the Regional Economic Development Council strategy, the “Buffalo Billion,” the Buffalo Green Code, and others – but others including more than 160 regional, municipal, and special purpose plans throughout Buffalo Niagara.

“We’ve read all of these plans and abstracted a series of statements about what values are common across them – statements about economic development, parks and recreation, transportation, housing and neighborhoods, climate change, water resources, food access, and more,” continued Shibley

“It will be up to citizens participating in the Community Congresses to tell us whether or not we got these right,” Shibley added, “and how we have to change them if we didn’t.”

Based on this direction from the general public, detailed implementation strategies will be developed by a series of working teams on land use and economic development, housing and neighborhoods, transportation, food systems, and climate change mitigation and adaptation. A subsequent Community Congress will review these strategies later in 2013. Further work will produce a Regional Plan for Sustainable Development, a document that will give our region priority status for funding opportunities today and into the future.

One Region Forward will develop more than just a plan, it will build capacity and tools to support local decision-making, conduct public education activities, and launch implementation campaigns for prototypical projects around key issues such as redevelopment of suburban retail strips, strengthening village Main Streets, or rejuvenating urban neighborhoods.

The effort is led by a broad-based steering committee that includes representatives from both counties; mayors and supervisors from across the region, the cities of Buffalo and Niagara Falls, major community based organizations, major public agencies in housing, education, and transportation, and the leading business sector organization in the region.

One Region Forward is funded by a highly competitive, first-of-its kind, $2M federal grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) as part of the Partnership for Sustainable Communities Initiative, an interagency partnership among HUD, the U.S. Department of Transportation, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority is administering the program through our region’s Metropolitan Planning Organization, the Greater Buffalo Niagara Regional Transportation Council.

 One Region Forward is sponsored by the following entities: Greater Buffalo-Niagara Regional Transportation Council (GBNRTC), Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority (NFTA), Erie County, Niagara County, City of Buffalo, City of Niagara Falls, Association of Erie County Governments, Niagara County Supervisors Association, University at Buffalo Regional Institute and Urban Design Project (UBRI/UDP), Daemen College Center for Sustainable Communities and Civic Engagement (CSCCE), VOICE Buffalo, Local Initiatives Support Corporation Buffalo (LISC), The John R. Oishei Foundation, Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus (BNMC), Belmont Housing Resources for WNY, Inc. (Belmont), Buffalo Niagara Partnership (BNP), Empire State Development, Niagara County Department of Social Services, and Niagara Falls Housing Authority.

There will be a second congress held in the Niagara Falls Conference Center on Saturday February 2nd from 2pm – 4pm.  

Buffalo Green Code: Upcoming Workshops

7 Feb

From the Green Code website:

The City of Buffalo is creating a “Green Code” to guide the rebuilding of our city for the next twenty years and beyond. We need citizens to be a part of the process. Plan to attend the upcoming workshop in your neighborhood. Our future depends on it.

It starts with a land use plan. That’s what the experts call it. Think of it as a development plan for rebuilding our city. It will guide public and private investment in every neighborhood across the city.

The plan makes our vision a reality. Citizens have already shared their vision for Buffalo inQueen City in the 21st Century: Buffalo’s Comprehensive Plan (2006). It describes the strategy for rebuilding Buffalo. Land use plans will fill in the details of how to make the vision a reality in every part of the city.

The plan becomes the Buffalo Green Code. The land use plan will be the basis for the creation of a new zoning ordinance known as the Buffalo Green Code.  It will give Buffalo’s Comprehensive Plan the force of law by governing what property owners can build on their land.  It will give the plan some “teeth.”

The Buffalo Green Code protects your community. You care about your property, how it looks and fits in with your neighborhood. You want your neighbors to do the same. The Buffalo Green Code will put in place rules that will bring added harmony to how our neighborhoods look and feel. That makes everyone’s property worth more.

It’s all about what “fits.” Everyone reaps rewards when buildings and their uses fit the character of a neighborhood. Storefront retail and residential streets can go together. Apartment buildings and offices can go together. But uses that generate traffic, noise, or pollution can diminish the value of neighboring properties. The Buffalo Green Code will protect us from that.

Strong neighborhoods are beautiful neighborhoods. A building design that doesn’t fit can damage property values as much as a land use that doesn’t fit. The Buffalo Green Code will also control what buildings look like and how they relate to the street and their neighbors.

A land use plan guides government, too. When any level of government invests money in roads, highways, transit, bridges, water and sewer systems, parks and community centers, they look to land use plans for guidance. Buffalo’s land use plan will guide investment in infrastructure to make the city more efficient and to make room to create jobs.

Predictability gives everyone confidence. Home owners will be more likely to invest in their property and businesses will be more likely to invest in jobs when they know for sure what the land use plan intends for their neighborhood. Because the Buffalo Green Code will make development more predictable it will make it more likely.

It’s a “green” century. New rules for building our city need to make room for the jobs of the future. But they also need to help us use less energy, do less driving, protect the quality of air, water and soil, and improve the quality of life in our neighborhoods.

Make your voice heard. The best plan for Buffalo will be the one that brings the greatest rewards to the community. That can only happen if the community makes their values, priorities, and concerns heard in the planning process. Don’t wait until the plan and zoning ordinance have already become law. Let us know now. Participate in the  workshop in your neighborhood!