Onondaga County

Aerial Perspective
Location: New York, USA
Project Categories: UrbanismCodes
Year Started: 1999
Status: adopted
Size: 512000 acres

The goal of creating an effective regional plan for Onondaga County presented a distinct challenge: to control the growth of an area in which political leadership is almost entirely decentralized to local governments. The Plan thus focuses on creating a kit of tools that individual municipalities could use at their own discretion, tools that would sell themselves on their own merits.

These tools comprised 3 categories: educating tools, regulating tools and design tools. The educating tools include a Traditional Neighborhood Development Guidelines and a County Transportation Policy, both of which instruct municipalities on the distinctions between current practice and healthy neighborhood planning principles. The regulating tools focus upon the Traditional Neighborhood Development Ordinance, which individual governments can pass as an optional but incentivized alternative to their conventional land-use regulations.

And most relevant to the Jump Start Program, the design tools comprise a series of case studies – “Pilot Projects” – representing the typical growth challenges facing the County’s municipalities. These include the revitalization of an urban neighborhood, the development of a brownfield, the expansion of a village, the growth of a hamlet, the reconstruction of a defunct shopping mall into a town center, the redesign of a strip shopping center, and the healing of a village damaged by highway traffic. Each of these projects was envisioned as an exemplar development, with proposed strategies that could be applied to other similar sites within the County.

Project partners included Onondaga County; the Onondaga County Water Authority; the Onondaga County Industrial Development Agency; the City of Syracuse; the other 19 towns and 15 villages within the County; Niagara Mohawk Power Corporation; Syracuse Metropolitan Transportation Council; OnCenter; The Central New York Regional Transportation Authority; Onondaga County Department of Parks and Recreation; and developers including but not limited to COR Development Co. and Pyramid Hotel Group.

The Settlement Plan (comprising the regional plan, pilot projects and implementation documents) was completed over a two-year period beginning in 1999. The Settlement Plan acknowledges that the County’s greatest strength is our tradition of historic neighborhoods, and then focuses on providing the tools that can most effectively reinforce that tradition.

The Settlement Plan represents the determination of the County and its citizens – as demonstrated in the 2010 Development Guide – to limit suburban sprawl in favor of the traditional neighborhood development model of growth. The Guidelines and Ordinance were made freeware, and were adopted either in their entirety or in parts, by the various municipalities/jurisdictions such as the Village of Liverpool, the Town of Fayetteville and the City of Syracuse.

The project cost comprised $197,000, and implementation costs have varied per specific project. For example, the Syracuse Industrial Development Agency (IDA) is contributing $500,000 to help the city build roads and other public infrastructure to the Harbor West Pilot Project, to be built by COR Development. The city plans to invest $4 million to build roads and other improvements to the west side of the harbor to support COR’s project and other developments further west, and also hopes to obtain $1.5 million from the state to pay for what the federal grant and IDA funding do not cover. COR spend an estimated $350 million transforming the former Barge Canal terminal into a commercial, residential and retail attraction.

Karen Kitney, former Director of the Syracuse-Onondaga County Planning Agency which oversaw the project, has lauded the Plan's success, saying "the Plan did what we had hoped and has permeated through the County and its several layers of its government, as well as with developers who are undertaking new development. The model plans have been picked up and used."

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