The COVID-19 pandemic has sabotaged many projects over the past two years, but it hasn’t been able to stop planners and consultants working with Genesee County from advancing the Genesee 2050 Comprehensive Plan and Recreation Plan.
In fact, the coronavirus paved the way for a new dynamic – the ability to meet via Zoom and other social media outlets to engage members of the focus groups who have contributed to the Comprehensive Plan, said Eve Holberg, planner/project manager with Joy Kuebler Landscape Architect of North Tonawanda.
Speaking at a presentation to the Genesee County Legislature tonight at the Old County Courthouse (and via Zoom), Holberg (photo at right) said that moving the process online has alleviated the challenge of bringing stakeholders together and has been key in communicating the various surveys that helped mold the documents.
“Zoom and other meeting platforms … can boost the efficiency of the focus groups (who) want to see their quality of life preserved,” she said.
About 10 people attended in person and several others viewed and listened remotely to the presentation, which also included an overview of the Recreation Plan and the Genesee 2050 Hub Site (www.Genesee2050.com) by Michael Kane and Jenny Mogavero, respectively, principals at Prospect Hill Consulting in Buffalo.
Joy Kuebler Landscape Architect and Prospect Hill Consulting have been commissioned by the Genesee County Planning Department to draft the updated plans, which carry the overarching goals of enhancing quality of life issues and providing viable places and opportunities that promote healthy living, recreation and the arts.
‘NOT YOUR GRANDFATHER’S PLAN’
Holberg said the economic, cultural and educational landscapes have changed considerably since the county first embarked on comprehensive planning more than 20 years ago.
“This is not your grandfather’s Comprehensive Plan,” she said, noting that she and others have been working on this for 18 months. She also touted the Genesee 2050 interactive website that will "carry the plan forward.”
The vision of the 2050 Comprehensive Plan targets the wishes of the residents of Genesee County and the willingness of county government “to advance budgeting and funding to achieve these ambitions,” she said.
Overall recommendations include maintaining and expanding the focus groups that have set the plans in motion and to sustain Smart Growth, the component that preserves the county’s farmland, promotes sustainable growth and supports economic development strategy.
The Genesee 2050 Comprehensive Plan lists 10 priority elements that are keys to achieving its goals:
- Land use, environment and place making;
- Agriculture and food production;
- Arts, culture, parks and recreation;
- Housing opportunities;
- Transportation and mobility;
- Technology and utilities;
- Community wellness;
- Economic and workforce development;
- Safety, security and justice;
- Government and education administration.
Holberg provided an example when talking about transportation and mobility, suggesting a pooling of transportation resources (Social Services, Office for the Aging, Veterans Services) “to make it possible to have a better mobility system and to keep people in their communities.”
RECREATION PLAN: AN ALL-IN VENTURE
The first of its kind in Genesee County, the Recreation Plan is a road map for future development – “an ambitious plan” that considers the extensive facilities and parks in the City of Batavia and the county’s towns and villages, Kane said.
The plan’s five goals and objectives – “which remained consistent as the project evolved,” Kane said – are as follows:
- Develop plans that equitably meet community recreation needs;
- Promote healthy living;
- Promote tourism through recreation, arts and cultural attractions;
- Promote new trails and park development, and local and regional trail connections.
- Promote/maintain youth recreational services.
Parks in the county for the most part are in excellent shape, Kane said, adding that information on all the parks and recreation areas is attractively displayed in the Recreation Plan.
His team reviewed more than 50 plans, including county, town and village comprehensive plans and New York State’s open space/recreation plans, and assessed the parks’ accessibility by walking and by car to “identify gaps in the county’s recreational inventory.”
Thus far, more than 20 projects have been identified, including expansion and upgrading of Ellicott Trail, creation of a new trail at Genesee Community College, paving of the shoulders of county roads for recreational use, establishing public spaces at Oatka Creek and reuse of the former amusement park at Indian Falls.
Kane said the projects are prioritized by how strongly they hit the five goals mentioned above. He also said these potential projects give Genesee County and other municipal entities a better chance to receive grant funding.
HUB SITE: AN EXTENSION OF THE PLAN
The Genesee 2050 Hub Site is a tool for the county to maintain the Comprehensive Plan and a platform to support community engagement activities, Mogavero said.
“It includes tools, data and documents for the focus groups .. and ensures that the plan will have a long shelf life,” she said, advising that the website will include the ability for public feedback in real time and links to agencies and maps to obtain current information.
In the end, Holberg said both plans reflect the values shared by county residents.
“Everyone wants more trails, and (because of that) the county can look for funding opportunities,” she said.