Greene County Draft Comprehensive Plan Needs Revised

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At the Greene County Commissioner Meeting on July 19, 2019, the commissioners voted to approve the draft of the county’s new Comprehensive Plan and open the public comment period. This draft Comprehensive Plan will serve the county for the next ten years as a policy guide for future land use and growth management, while also setting the overarching criteria for the comprehensive plans developed by individual municipalities. The overall theme for the County comprehensive plan is “Live Greene, Work Greene, Love Greene.” 

The draft Comprehensive Plan strives to achieve five priority goals based on six foundational pillars of Greene County. Below is a  summary of what is in the plan: 

Mobility, Transportation & Infrastructure 

This pillar focuses on developing our infrastructure, including water, sewer, broadband, mobility, and highway/road improvements and issues they considered were broadband and cellular coverage in the cover, expanding public water and sewage infrastructure, updating/maintaining our transportation network, and developing a financially capable method for public transit. The priority goal under this pillar is to expand broadband access to underserved areas by supporting lobbying to increase financial assistance and taking lead on mapping and categorizing networks that exist in the county. The measures of success include  having an expert engaged with the Governors Office of Broadband Initiatives and ensuring that all five school districts have total facility access to high-speed internet. 

Workforce and Education 

This pillar focuses on individuals' access to knowledge, skills, and attitudes for gainful employment and improved work performance as well as effective means for employers to communicate and meet their demand for skills. The Planning Commission considered the following issues: Assisting school districts with methods to enhance public education and reduce cost; preparing students to pursue careers in available in local and regional workforces; Improving safety in public schools’ Addressing declining enrollment and resource scarcity; Supporting Greene County Career and Technical Center;and Nurturing an entrepreneurial culture. The priority goal under this pillar is to assist educational providers to enhance opportunities and reduce cost by playing a supporting role in exploring options to partner district-wide, encouraging school districts to educate the public and parents on financing and operation of public education, work with education providers to assist individuals gain the skills and knowledge for local, available jobs. The measures of success include: launching a county-wide cyber school, a public outreach campaign and supporting collateral for education providers, and expanding the existing pre-apprenticeship program to include the Greene County’s major commercial and industrial employers. 

Business and Industry

This pillar focuses on businesses and organizations involved in setting the policies and practices of economic activities that provide employment in the region. The Planning Commission considered the following issues: Attracting new business and industry; Focusing on areas served by existing infrastructure;Capitalizing on energy production; Expanding economic opportunities; Implementing a successful marketing campaign; Examing new financing strategies. The priority goal under this pillar is to capitalize on Greene County’s assets to expand economic opportunities particularly focusing on the fossil fuel industry. They plan to achieve this goal by taking lead on developing a one-stop-shop for economic development in the county; creating a marketing strategy focusing on retraining existing and attracting new business and industry into the county, and taking advantage of abundant and inexpensive energy sources. Measures of success include creating a physical location for the one-stop-shop, launching the marketing campaign, having priority sites for development/redevelopment. 

Quality of Life

This pillar focuses on the overall health and well being of residents. They considered improving the overall County Health rankings, promoting good stewardship, expanding housing opportunities, and addressing the opioid crisis. There are two priority goals that could fall under this pillar: 1) Continue to improve the overall county health, safety, and wellness by leading on offering more recreational opportunities and programs, and 2) support the ability of first responders to provide high quality and efficient services and support efforts to fight the opioid crisis. Measures of success for this goal include: construction of the Wisecarver Recreation Area;, ensuring that local fire departments and EMA have sufficient funding; and implementing strategies to address the opioid crisis. In addition, another goal is to increase housing opportunities that meet the communities’ needs by supporting infrastructure expansion to target areas that can support new housing development. To the extent that it is necessary, the County also intends to assist municipalities with updating land use ordinances to accommodate a variety of housing. Measures of success for housing goals are expanding water and sewer infrastructure for target sites and updating local land use ordinances to permit a variety of housing choices in addition to single-family homes. 

Grow and Protect Assets

This pillar focuses on Greene County’s assets and how the county can protect and utilize our assets to address tax base changes. By preserving what the County has and leveraging it for growth, the County can build on character while attracting visitors and businesses to the County. The issues considered include:  capitalizing on the “Rural-ability’ of the county; attracting and maintaining a younger population base; targeting growth and development to investment corridors; addressing the devaluation of coal; and continuing to expand the county recreation system. Several of the previously discussed strategies can also support this pillar of the County plan. In addition, the County Planning Commission put together several maps in the comprehensive plan to show the potential to attract downstream manufacturing related to the natural gas industry (aka the petrochemical industry). 

Local Government 

This pillar focuses on improving the local governments which are the closest to constituents and often the first point of contact for residents and businesses. The issues considered include establishing uniformity in municipal regulations; fighting neighborhood blight; building deeper volunteer bases for emergency services; and encouraging more municipal cooperation and partnership. Some of the previous goals and strategies, like expanding housing, also fall under this pillar. 

This draft version of the comprehensive plan is supposed to reflect a ten-year vision for the county. However, the draft plan is incomplete and shortsighted. In reality,   many of the goals and measures of success could be completed in less than five years. The overall theme of the draft plan is to Live Greene, Work Greene, and Love Greene. The plan is focused on working in Greene but fails to set forth a plan (or even a vision) for transitioning from being dependent on a few extractive industries to having a modern, widely diversified economy that works for everyone. t. Great places to live, work and recreate are not created by accident. The Planning Commission needs to do more in the Comprehensive Plan to address the overarching objectives of “Live Greene” and “Love Greene.”     

It is critical for the Greene County Commissioners to be transparent about the feedback they are receiving on the draft plan by sharing those comments publically and they must take every resident’s comments seriously. You can take action below and send a letter now telling the commissioners to improve and complete the comprehensive plan. 

You can also send any comments to Jeremy Kelly at jkelly@co.greene.pa.us or by mail at 49 S Washington Street, Waynesburg, PA 15370. Comments must be submitted by September 3rd at 4 PM.