REGIONAL COMPREHENSIVE PLAN NOTES
Plan Prepared by Wendel Duchscherer Architects & Engineer
Protecting the character of the region (and each individual community) is a goal of the Plan and was explicitly brought to light by the public
Program is funded "by Erie County as part of a larger program of encouraging communities to work in a regional or cooperative manner to identify joint opportunities and resolve joint concerns."
Executive Summary (summarizes bulk of plan, introduction)
- encourage a regional approach to development and planning in the regional plan area
- maintain community character
- enhance the economic climate of the region
- protect and preserve natural resources
- provide and improve recreational opportunities and parks
- enhance the existing transportation system to improve regional access
- ensure an appropriate and quality housing stock
- provide clean, potable water to the residents of the region in an economical manner that does not encourage sprawl
General Findings and Recommendations
- elements of rural character include open spaces, active farmland, and scenic features (important views such as the streams)
- consider adopting "rural development standards" to guide future development in the region. Would be based on common ideals, but tailored to fit each community's needs
- should establish a regional comprehensive plan implementation committee to monitor future planning actions and provide continuing input and updates into the regional plan.
- communities, especially Elma and Aurora, should prepare open space plans to identify and prioritize important environmental features. Priority should be given to creek areas; consider implementing site clearance standards, wetland protection regulations and erosion and sediment control measures.
- water quality is a critical issue, especially since many areas of the region are dependent upon groundwater resources for potable water. Best management practices, stronger drainage requirements, and public education about the proper maintenance of on-site sanitary waste disposal systems should be supported. The density of new development in areas without sewers should be dependent upon the ability of the site to support it (percolation testing).
- consider designating important parks and open space as Critical Environmental Areas (CEAs) under the provisions of the State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA).
- The Vision Plan is a visual representation of the goals, objectives, and recommendations for the region, based on the existing conditions, issues and constraints as identified through the planning process. The Vision Maps recommend the protection of streams from development pressures and their use for public recreation and open space where practical. (The Vision Plan is a part of the Regional Comprehensive Plan that shows layout and zoning of land as recommended by other sections of Plan.)
- plan provides a strategy for how to implement the recommendations of the report, with prioritized step-by-step approach for each community to accomplish its goals.
- establish a regular review of the document. It is important to assess the accomplishments of the communities, individually and in partnership, toward implementing their goals and objectives as outlined in the Plan. A statement regarding the accomplishments of the past year in each community, including joint efforts, should be provided to the Town and Village Boards for their review and approval. A more extensive review and formal re-adoption process is recommended every five years to ensure the continued relevancy of the Plan.
General Characteristics of the Region
- area is predominantly rural in nature. EA functions as primary rural service center for region, extending to Marilla and Colden (not included in this study). Holland also designated a rural service center of countywide significance by Erie County.
- most recent efforts for region (in terms of any type of comprehensive plan or study):
- Holland's Master Plan Update (adopted in 1994, update of 1972 Holland Master Plan).
- Aurora, Wales and EA had Comprehensive Plans prepared under the Urban Planning Assistance Program of the US Dept. of Housing and Urban Development (prepared in 1970 but never adopted in Wales and EA) (Aurora - prepared in 1980-Basic Studies, and 1981-Comprehensive Plan and Implementation Plan).
- Elma Comprehensive Plans in 1965 and 1983, and updated the plan in 1994.
- NYS law indicates that Town and Village planning, zoning, capital budgeting and other decisions should be based upon a current comprehensive plan that represents the community's vision for its future.
- became clear that many issues couldn't be adequately addressed from a purely local perspective. They cut across jurisdictional boundaries, and are best approached on an inter-municipal or regional basis.
- Sect. 272-a of Town and 7-722 of Village law. (Town and Village have the power to undertake Comprehensive Planning and to adopt a plan to help promote the health, safety and general welfare of the Town or Village. Give due consideration to the needs of the people of the region of which the Town or Village is a part)
- Sect. 284 of Town and § 7-741 of Village law allow communities to perform inter-municipal cooperation in comprehensive planning.
- plan to be adopted independently by each individual community. No regional entity governing its adoption, and no individual community has any additional powers over any of the other communities.
Goals and Objectives
- direction for creating following goals & objectives provided by Guiding Principles for Countywide Land Use of Planning developed by the Erie County Dept of Planning and Development.
- expanded regional goals & objectives:
* encourage greater collaboration and coordination of efforts among the municipalities and the school districts in the region
* investigate areas where shared services and/or costs between two or more communities are appropriate, and encourage joint efforts in these areas
* encourage adaptive reuse of existing structures
* investigate opportunities for expanding existing facilities, and where appropriate, acquire additional parkland or facilities that meet regional needs
* encourage the provision of a greater variety of housing styles and types to accommodate a wider range of housing preferences, income levels and household types (singles, seniors, empty-nesters)
* ensure that residential development does not occur in areas where infrastructure (particularly water and septic service) is inadequate
* in areas where water quality threatens the public health, establish new service to residents and maintain existing service in a manner that does not spur excessive new development
- preliminary list of issues was compiled from the input gathered at "public information kick off meetings" in April 2000
- focus meetings in May and June 2000 to refine list of issues and opportunities
- community/special interest group meetings between July and Oct 2000. Groups including farmers, senior citizens, service organizations, environmental groups, historical societies, school district superintendents and governmental boards. Met on a regular basis with Greater EA Chamber of Commerce to keep them up-to-date on their progress
- two rounds of public opinion surveys and questionnaires
* fall 2000: each municipality devised their own survey to address their individual concerns
* fall 2001: more regional in scope. Focused on issues of common concern, such as community
character, open space preservation, and public utilities.
- public design charettes: aimed at generating public comments on the Goals and Objectives. Attendees invited to draw on blank maps of their communities to visually illustrate their ideas. Also other venues of input, like website.
Existing Conditions of the Communities in the Region
- there are a number of agricultural districts within the region. Farms within an agricultural district receive incentives to keep their land in agricultural uses, such as property tax benefits. Any non-agricultural development within an agricultural district is subject to a higher level of scrutiny under the State Environmental Quality Review (SEQR) procedure, requiring an assessment of the impacts to agriculture of any action. (agricultural districts are in Elma, Holland and Wales) it is estimated that over half of the land in the regional area lies within a designated agricultural district (only little of the Town of Aurora and none of the Village of EA)
- agricultural transitional zone: should be given general priority in planning objectives
- Erie County is currently implementing its Agricultural Protection Program. Among other recommendations, this program encourages local governments to adopt local right-to-farm laws in order to shield farmers from claims that their operations are a nuisance. Erie County also has its own right-to-farm law to conserve, protect and encourage the development and improvement of agricultural land for the production of food and other products.
Findings and Recommendations
- growth trends are pushing towards the northern communities more than the Southtowns
- major areas of concern
* maintaining community character (rural and "small town flavor")
* communities are willing to encourage to some extent the growth of business within their
* how the public can utilize their open spaces for recreational use
* region is too automobile dependent; research into alternative transportation methods
* providing housing for increasing elderly population; residential growth will occur and that the
region predominately is dominated by single-family home construction.
* public water (the region desires the benefits of public water in those areas of need, but is
concerned over its effects)
- overall wish to preserve the character of the region, not become what some suburban communities have become
- most important issues relating to establishing rural character of region are open space and lot size (farming is a close third)
- issues with greatest support for a regional approach were natural resources, public services, drainage, agriculture, utilities and recreation
- in those communities not having public water, residents prefer that a variety of controls be put in place if waterlines are extended into those communities
- most residents support concept of regional cooperation, but opinions vary on how to accomplish this.
- residents in surrounding towns agree that EA is integral to the region.
- in all towns except Holland, majority of residents believe that large retail/commercial uses are not suitable for region
- large majority of residents believe that there should be some level of public access along creek corridors. For residents of Wales, majority was much smaller
- regional assets and constraints:
* each community has strong rural character feel.
* several large creek corridors
* large areas of agriculture exist in Towns of Holland and Wales, to lesser extent in Aurora and Elma
* large areas of vacant and undeveloped lands in all four towns. Village of EA is almost completely built out
* towns of Aurora, Wales and Holland have very few areas serviced by public water and sewer. Town of Holland's hamlet area has both town-owned water and sewer system, but remainder of Town is unserviced. Town of Wales has no public water or sewer systems, and Aurora has some areas of public water, and very small areas with public water. Elma, on the other hand, is completely watered, and Town has some small sewer districts. Village is also completely watered and has sewer system servicing entire Village and parts of Town of Aurora. All five communities are presently participating in a regional water study (Southtowns Water Consortium) that will help identify best means of supplying water in region.
* Village of EA serves as the regional service hub of the communities. Holland hamlet is also rural service center and begins the transition of the southern part of Holland out of the service area into the Village of EA. Other strong delineators of the Village's service region are the Village of Orchard Park to the west, and Towns of West Seneca and Lancaster (especially the Transit Road corridor) to the north/northwest. To the south, the hamlet of Colden serves as a rural service center to Town of Colden. Parts of Marilla are in the service region of EA, but it is also serviced by Lancaster and Alden. Service centers to the east are miles away.
* Elma and northern portion of Aurora have better soils with only small areas of environmental limitations and therefore present fewer impediments to development. Towns of Wales and Holland have much greater areas of environmental limitations (usually steep slopes) that limit development.
- Regional Comprehensive Plan has suggestions on how to change zoning laws in order to make them more conducive to the type of development that the regions would like to see
- topography (especially in Holland) is a limiting factor for developing the region commercially
Economic Development: General Comments
- a regional approach to economic development strengthens each community's position in terms of economic development, in that collectively, the region has much greater clout (market, demographics, quality of life amenities) than any one community individually
Transportation Management: Regional Recommendations
- NYSDOT has identified certain locations where traffic volumes and/or design deficiencies are resulting in congestion or other traffic problems. Being examined by the state:
* intersection of Clinton St and Girdle/Schwartz Rd in Elma
* intersections of Rtes 20A and 78 and Two Rod Road and 20A in Wales
* Rte 400 and 16 merge in South Wales
* area in vicinity of traffic circle in EA
- Norfolk Southern railroad line that runs through Elma, EA and Aurora and into Holland through southwest corner of Wales. There are three active switches: one in South Wales, Holland and one near Jamison Rd in Elma. Railroad is an important asset to the region and provides opportunities for industrial development. It may provide long term opportunities for pedestrian/commuter travel in the future as well
Protection of Significant Environmental Resources: General Comments
- these five communities are among 18 Erie County communities that are participating in a regional water supply study to determine ways to optimize delivery of a reliable and cost-efficient supply of water to current and future users in the overall study area
- EA is only community that is fully serviced by a public sewer system
Recreational Opportunities: General Comments
- already significant degree of regional interaction in providing recreation
- demand in region for a system of trails, bikeways or greenways: linear recreation system
- vision map is based upon an analysis of existing land use patterns and roadway system, economic conditions and environmental resources and constraints, in conjunction with the issues and opportunities identified by the public. The vision map is a guidance tool that represents overall vision for the region and can help with recommendations outlined in plan. Should not be used independently of the Regional Comprehensive Plan.
- designed to illustrate the vision and desire for proper management of growth and development in the regional planning communities
Implementation: General Section
- first step is to designate an Advisory Committee as entity(s) responsible for implementation of document; establish biannual review to determine progress and continue to review and update plan
- Priority 1 Actions: should be completed first and are anticipated to take place in first two years after adoption
- Priority 2 Actions: can take place after a particular priority 1 action takes place or as the community desires in the years 1-5 after plan adoption.
- Priority 3 Actions: either long-term actions (those that may or may not be necessary depending on future scenarios, or are alternative ideas for certain priority 1 or 2 actions (that may not achieve desired results). Considered "Tool Box" actions
- typically, the potential environmental impacts of Regional Comprehensive Plan are evaluated through a Generic Environmental Impact Statement (GEIS)
- section includes info about existing land use, land use regulations, topography, soils, stream corridors and watersheds, flooding and erosion, significant wildlife habitats, environmental hazards, socio-economic conditions, transportation, utilities, parks and recreation, schools, emergency and government facilities, historic and archeological resources
- basically, inappropriate land uses will negatively impact resources
GLOSSARY OF TERMS USED IN REGIONAL COMPREHENSIVE PLAN
Aquifier - an underground source of water that lies within or between water bearing layers of permeable rock, sand or gravel.
Agricultural Preservation - a variety of techniques employed to help support farming as an economic activity and farmland as a land use.
Central Business District - the area of the Village or a hamlet, consisting of retail, commercial, institutional and public service establishments, that functions as the primary location for commerce
Clustered Development - Clustered Development is a design technique for development projects that concentrates residential buildings in specific areas on a site to allow the remaining land to be set aside for recreation, common open space or environmental preservation. This is done by allowing housing to be constructed on smaller lots as long as the original density (the number of houses that can be built as-of-right on the property under the existing zone) does not change.
Conservation Easements - Conservation Easements are a legal means of controlling development on a particular parcel in order to preserve open space. Lands subject to Conservation Easements have controls or regulations limiting development.
Corridor (stream, scenic, open space, habitat) - a connection linking open space, wildlife habitats or other environmental features.
Greater Buffalo-Niagara Regional Transportation Council (GBNRTC) - The Greater Buffalo-Niagara Regional Transportation Council is the interagency planning group that establishes transportation policies and programs for Erie and Niagara Counties. In 1975, the GBNRTC (which was known as the NFTC - Niagara Frontier Transportation Committee) was designated the Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) responsible for transportation planning in these counties. The organization provides a regional decision-making forum for the development of a multi-modal integrated transportation system that best serves the Niagara Frontier.
Housing Stock - the overall supply of housing in an area, including all sizes and styles of residential development.
Hydric Soils - soils are considered to be hydric if they are saturated, flooded or impounded long enough during the growing season to develop low oxygen levels and changeable chemical conditions in the upper layer. These soils are very poorly drained and have a high probability of containing wetlands.
Infrastructure - the underlying framework of public works systems that includes sewers, water lines, roadways, drainage piping and other utility service systems.
Level of Service - this term refers to a measurement of the amount of automobile traffic on roadways. Level of Service (LOS), as defined in NFTC 2010 Transportation System Plan, is a qualitiative measure describing the operational conditions within a stream of traffic. It is a means of quantifying or "grading" the operational quality of service provided by a roadways facility (NFTC, December 1994). LOS employs a rating system of "A" through "F", with "A" representing the best conditions with minimal delays and "F" representing failing conditions with extensive congestion.
Neo-Urbanist Concepts - Neo-urbanist, or neo-traditional, planning concepts emphasize mixed-use development reminiscent of traditional "small-town" type development. Traditional grid street patterns are preferred. Additional design standards typically found in neo-urbanist plans include smaller building setbacks so that buildings create a street-line, use of public buildings or parks as focal points in design, and pedestrian-friendly features, such as sidewalks, crosswalks, benches and street trees.
Overlay District - an overlay district is created by identifying an area on a municipality's Zoning Map and specifying additional regulations to supplement the underlying zoning regulations. The underlying zoning of the area does not change. Rather, additional restrictions are overlain onto the district. When development is proposed within the boundaries of an overlay district, the developer must comply with the requirements of the existing zoning district and the overlay district.
Passive Recreation - passive recreation involves non-strenuous activities such as picnicking, bird watching, casual walking and scenic viewing.
Planned Unit Development (PUD) - Planned Unit Developments (PUD) allow the mixing of commercial, industrial and residential uses on a single property. Typically zoning does not allow mixing uses, but this technique allows for a more creative site plan, subject to municipal approval. The usual use of PUDs is the creation of a planned community, with a proper mix of uses and layout. If they are allowed within a municipality, the Code specifies the minimum size of a PUD (acreage), and the requirements that must be followed. It must be understood that this zoning category is not an "open approval" to all uses. A plan must be submitted and approved by municipal authorities. A subcategory of PUDs is the Planned Residential District, or PRD. In this zoning category only residential uses are allowed, but there is greater leeway in the mixing of housing types (single-family, duplexes, apartments, condos, etc.).
Subdivision - The division of any parcel of land into two or more lots for immediate sale or development with or without streets or highways.
Transfer of Development Rights - This is a legal mechanism for preserving land and open space, by allowing denser development elsewhere within the municipality. In the areas identified for protection, the "development rights" can be sold or transferred to a receiving area, where denser development is appropriate. The area that purchased the development rights is allowed increased density (more units per acre, for example). In exchange, development is prohibited in the area selling the development rights.
Wetlands - those areas which are inundated or saturated by surface or groundwater at a frequency of duration sufficient to support, or that under normal circumstances do support, a prevalence of vegetation typically adapted for life in saturated soil conditions. Wetlands include bogs, swamps, marshes, cattail ponds, wet forests and meadows. These areas may not be wet or covered by water throughout the year.
Zoning Districts - In a municipality there exists zoning which tells you what can be built on the property (the use), and how it shall be built on the land (bulk requirements including size, height, etc.). Each zoning district has specific regulations regarding uses and bulk that must be followed. The zoning districts are identified through a zoning map that depicts where the boundaries of the zoning district exist.