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What if Buffalo/Niagara imagined its future differently?

by jmaloni


Tue, Jul 15th 2014 12:30 pm

Citizens invited to say how area should grow at open house for One Region Forward

Citizens in Erie and Niagara counties will have an opportunity next week to contribute to a continuing dialogue about how the Buffalo/Niagara region can grow more sustainably through the first half of the 21st century.

Last fall and throughout the winter, nearly 800 citizens participated in a creative mapping exercise to consider where Buffalo/Niagara should grow - and how - over the next 40 years.

Now the results are in and the regional planning effort known as One Region Forward is asking citizens back to consider the comparative costs and benefits of a range of alternative regional scenarios and to refine their advice on which way Buffalo/Niagara should grow.

The open house-style events - the third in a series of "community congresses" for One Region Forward - will be held at the Palace Theater, 2 East Ave., Lockport, Monday, July 21, and at the Erie Community College City Campus, 121 Ellicott St., Buffalo, Tuesday, July 22. Both events start at 5 p.m. and will have presentations at 5:30 and 7 p.m. Register now by clicking here.

Citizens created 115 unique maps at the second round of "community congresses" in November and at nearly two-dozen more workshops around the region through early 2014. A painstaking analysis of the maps suggested three distinctive alternative scenarios as defined by citizen participants.

One scenario proposes a movement "Back to the City." A second defines a "Region of Villages," as well as redevelopment of urban cores. A third suggests the region can "Sprawl Smarter." A fourth "Business as Usual" scenario is based on an extrapolation of development patterns from the past 20 years.

Using well-known modeling software, project staff has compared the impacts of the four scenarios on key regional indicators such as vehicle miles traveled, energy consumption, farmland converted for residential development, housing abandonment, infrastructure costs, property and sales tax revenues and more.

"We'll ask participants in the open houses to consider these estimates of future costs and benefits and then let us know which of these scenarios make the most sense to them now," said Hal Morse, chair of the One Region Forward steering committee and executive director of the Greater Buffalo Niagara Regional Transportation Council.

Part of the work at the open houses will invite participants to learn more about some of the tactics needed to implement any of the three citizen scenarios and say which they like and which they don't.

"It's not about choosing one scenario over the other," said Robert Shibley, director of the University at Buffalo Regional Institute, which is staffing the planning effort. "We will borrow ideas from all of the scenarios and combine them in a broader shared vision for the future of the region. But we need to know what citizens think in order to get the mix right."

The work to date has identified some important public values. Participants so far tend to agree the region should:

•Grow where we've already grown to save on infrastructure and land;

•Build walkable, livable communities and preserve those that are already working well;

•Connect places better by providing more and better transportation options;

•Protect farmland, open space and natural areas; and,

•Promote growth to increase public revenue, but reduce demands for service.

It will take no more than an hour to participate, but people should make sure to arrive in time for either the 5:30 or 7 p.m. presentation. Opportunity to comment will follow each presentation.

About One Region Forward

One Region Forward is funded by a $2 million grant from the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development through its Partnership for Sustainable Communities, an interagency collaboration also involving the federal Department of Transportation and the Environmental Protection Agency.

The effort is guided by a partnership of more than 20 nonprofit, business, academic and government organizations that serve on the effort's steering committee. They include: the Greater Buffalo Niagara Regional Transportation Council, the Western New York office of Empire State Development, the New York State Department of Transportation, Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority, Erie County, Niagara County, the City of Buffalo, the City of Niagara Falls, the Association of Erie County Governments, and the Niagara County Supervisors Association,

Other members of the steering committee include the University at Buffalo Regional Institute and the Urban Design Project, Local Initiatives Support Corp., the Western New York Environmental Alliance, the Buffalo Niagara Partnership, Belmont Housing Resources, Niagara County Department of Social Services, the John R. Oishei Foundation, Niagara Falls Municipal Housing Authority, Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper, the Daemen College Center for Sustainable Communities and Civic Engagement, VOICE Buffalo, and the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus Inc.

The steering committee is supported by more than 100 subject matter experts from across Erie and Niagara counties working in teams to develop strategies around topics of land use and development, housing and neighborhoods, transportation and mobility, climate change action, and food access and justice.

Learn more about One Region Forward and register for "community congress" events by visiting www.oneregionforward.org.

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