Participation. We started the process of participation with the county
department heads who were responsible for infrastructure and capital budgeting,
on the theory that every government should and probably did have policies on
capital investments and regulations related to permits. Many were concerned
about the costs of sprawl and excess infrastructure capacity at the center but
their concerns had never been discussed. They became our first partners.
Our next partners came from the Environmental Management Council. They
recognized that a smaller urbanized area meant less impact on the natural
environment. The process then extended to the Infrastructure Commission, a group
appointed by the legislature to address concerns of developers, mostly with
roads and pipes. They support the goal of economic growth and came to accept the
need for fiscal restraint. They concluded that knowing the rules of the game
ahead of time and a level playing field were their most important concerns and
the Guide addressed these. Finally the draft Guide was presented to city, towns,
and villages planning board members and elected officials at a full day meeting
of the Onondaga County Planning Federation. Many towns did not see the
implications of the plan; some argued that it was their turn to grow; but most
concurred with the County that cost-effective infrastructure was crucial if we
were to become a competitive location for economic investments.
After five years, we checked back with the same participants. We updated to
Guide to make it more user friendly and added graphics but retained the goals,
strategies and policies; it was readopted. We learned during this process that
municipal boards needed a more detailed vision of the future and better
regulatory tools. We expect change and need to make existing community centers
competitive with green field sites. Local planning board members were frustrated
because current zoning did not require—or in some cases even permit – growth or
in-fill development in the traditional pattern that exists.
II. New Urbanism
New urbanism came to us through Mark Falcone of Pioneer
Development. Mark was Chairman of the county’s Economic Development Commission.
His position was that there were many groups out trying to market the county,
but that no one was invested in product development, that is protecting the
quality of our historic village center and urban neighborhoods. Mark suggested a
lecture series on new urbanism that we billed as "Onondaga County-Home of the
Best Small Towns and Neighborhoods in America". Pioneer Development sponsored a
full day seminar by Andres Duany for the Planning Federation and the public. The
program drew four times our usual attendance.
Andres Duany is a dynamic and informative speaker. He provided the community
with a vocabulary of urban design and an illustrated primer on the values of
urbanism. His slides contrasted the good, the bad and the ugly found across
urban and suburban America. The neighborhood was defined as the fundamental
human habitat, a place with a five minute walk from edge to center where
residents can live, work, shop, and gather. The importance of the street, the
block and the building in shaping public spaces was illustrated. The ratio of
building height to street width as a key factor in creating inviting public
spaces was related to high real estate values. The complexity of function and
spaces in a city street was contrasted to the single purpose design of most
suburban streets and roads.
Choice in how we spend our time and money (in and on cars and commuting or on
some other activity) was suggested as an important difference between quality of
life and standard of living. The shift in public capital budgets away from
facilities for people—sidewalks, parks, schools, libraries, town halls, and post
offices—toward facilities to move stuff—pipes and roads—represents public
choices that should be examined anew. And finally Andres outlined the role of a
regional: to designate protected open space and transportation corridors and
thus structure the metropolitan area.
Over 400 people invested eight hours in this program; they left with the
notion that there is a better way to manage the built environment. We followed
this success with programs on Main Street Retailing (Bob Gibbs), Urban
Design-Charleston Style (Mayor Joseph Riley), and traffic calming (Walter Kulash)
with the help of Pioneer Development and new support from local engineering
III. The Settlement Plan
The response to this lecture series was so
positive that the Chairman of the County Legislature worked with the Industrial
Development Agency and the Onondaga County Water Authority to fund The
Settlement Plan. We had three goals: community understanding of urban design, a
detailed vision for the built environment, and model codes based on the New
Urbanism principals. We appointed a Steering Committee of community leaders and
stakeholders in development including residents.
In June of last year, we asked every municipality for a resolution expressing
interest in the process, mostly to avoid stepping on toes of local officials.
Within two weeks, 20 municipalities responded and took the initiative to
recommend pilot neighborhoods.
In September, we hosted a "Kick-off Session" for local officials. Andres
Duany explained the approach, the need for free exchange of ideas with
businesses and residents in the pilot areas. We toured the County to select
pilot neighborhoods. The pilots were chosen to illustrate a range of urban
design issues from traffic and brown fields to growth patterns and dead malls,
in city, village, suburban and rural locations. Enough economic energy to permit
implementation was an important criteria.
Although the pilots were to be model on ideal plans, we hoped that they would
have enough power to lead to positive change in those neighborhoods—to create
highly visible successes worth emulating.
The Charrette. In October, Andres Duany brought a team of 20 architects
and planners together for the eight-day charrette. The team included a local
design firm for two reasons: to provide detailed knowledge of local conditions
and to build a local knowledge base for ongoing implementation. The entire team
joined in a bus tour of the county and the pilots on the first day. That evening
Andres Duany gave a public lecture to 500 local officials, architects, and
residents. The next five days were filled with meetings about specific pilot
neighborhoods, design and transportation issues, market issues, and local plans
and policies. Participants were invited but all sessions were open to the
The process was fascinating. The team was broken down into eight project
groups, which worked within earshot of the charrette meetings, made site visits
and met with local stakeholders. Designs evolved as site information came
together, changes were made in response to suggestions overheard from the
charrette meetings. Andres maintained unifying influence on all the work groups
and led most of the charrette meetings. There was so much to learn and ideas
changed so fast that I was reluctant to leave the charrette site while any of
the consultants remained, and they worked way into the night.
On the last day the team completed designs, prepared a power point
presentation of digital photo-graphs and designs. In the evening, Andres made a
public presentation of the plans and designs that included recommendations for
incentives based on local market constraints and addressed code and maintenance
issues faced by the complex conditions found in the city.
More than 1500 people participated in the charrette and public presentations.
The presentations were videotaped, placed in the library, and offered at cost.
We anticipated local demand; we were very pleased by demand statewide.
The Settlement Plan. The Settlement Plan consists of three documents—The
County Plan and Pilot Neighborhoods, TND Design Guidelines, and The TND Code.
The County Plan is based on preservation of the most desirable or important
natural features and a transportation policy based on a street network and the
concept of "townless highways and highwayless towns".
A model town plan illustrates a the coordination between the County plan—open
space and transportation plans—and provides incentives for preservation of rural
highway frontage and creation of new hamlets at state and county crossroads.
Design solutions to typical planning problems are provided for seven pilot
neighborhoods. The Butternut area of Syracuse illustrates the transect of urban
patterns from urban core to neighborhood edge and the use of the Traditional
Neighborhood Development Code. Code enforcement based on neighborhood election
of some standards and citation and fines modeled on traffic tickets were
Plans for the village of Liverpool call for traffic calming Main Street and
relocating commuter traffic from the six-lane arterial that brutally bisects the
village center to the Thruway just north of the village. The objective is to
create a destination retail street and promote pedestrian and vehicular links
with Onondaga Lake Park. Redesign of the Onondaga Lake Parkway as a park road
rather than a commuter chute was also proposed.
The Fayetteville Mall evolves in three stages from a retail wasteland into a
town center with a library, police station, YMCA, main street shops, mixed
commercial, light industrial, and residential uses for several market segments.
A stream re-emerges from beneath the parking lot to provide a creek walk, a pond
and skating rink that increase flood storage potential.
Bayberry Plaza, a successful sixties neighborhood strip center, is turned to
face the neighborhood instead of the parking lot. Civic uses, a village green,
and new housing enhance the pedestrian appeal from the adjacent Radburn style
neighborhood, and new connections were added between the arterial and the
Baldwinsville and Jamesville designs encourage growth in patterns that
reflect existing urban fabric, despite land holdings by multiple owners with
individual development schedules The pilot designs illustrate how existing
communities could be much more attractive; they have already generated a great
deal of enthusiasm and led to implementation initiatives. But in my opinion the
most powerful products are the Traditional Neighborhood Design Guidelines and
the Traditional Neighborhood Development Code. The Guidelines systematically
illustrate urban design concepts and will be useful to developers and
municipalities for many years. The Codes for regional, green field and in-fill
projects provide a parallel zoning system based on urban design for specific
settings from the urban core to the urban edge. Mixed uses are proposed in
ratios that vary over the transect; standards for street designs of varying
width and capacity, architectural and landscape code options complete the codes.
Implementation. The charrette and Andres Duany’s ideas received excellent
coverage by the Syracuse Newspapers. Articles extended over the next two months
with a weekly column focused on each pilot neighborhood. Three communities are
actively pursuing implementation of the pilot plans.
A neighborhood plat designed by DPZ is in the process of subdivision approval
in the pilot town.
The traffic recommendations for Liverpool have been modeled and endorsed by
the Metropolitan Planning Organization and outreach to municipalities on new
urbanism street networks is part of the MPO work program. Local consultants have
completed suburban corridor studies using TND design guidelines.
The public response suggests that the process succeeded in generating a
shared vision, defining locations for future settlements, and providing better
regulatory tools for municipalities. The County will assist local boards in
adapting codes to unique town and village conditions. Dialog with local
officials and state and county transportation department heads will continue. We
hope to use Tea 21 funds to recreate our Main Streets.
We feel strongly that a high quality of life (choice in employment,
recreation, and neighborhood setting, pedestrian quality street networks,
rational traffic mobility, clean air and water) is key to a the county’s
Harbor West is a brownfield in Syracuse next to the former Barge Canal
Terminal. Its neighbors include the extremely successful Carousel Center and
mixed-use redevelopment of an abandoned industrial area. The Harbor West plan
illustrates the potential for a new neighborhood on a pedestrian scale centered
on an elementary school. It provides for a variety of housing types, designed to
buffer residents and pedestrians from traffic, include neighborhood scale retail
and a public green.
The pilot designs illustrate how existing communities could be much more
attractive; they have already generated a great deal of enthusiasm and led to
implementation initiatives. But in my opinion the most powerful products are the
Traditional Neighborhood Design Guidelines and the Traditional Neighborhood
Development Code. The Guidelines systematically illustrate urban design concepts
and will be useful to developers and municipalities for many years. The Codes
for regional, green field and in-fill projects provide a parallel zoning system
based on urban design for specific settings from the urban core to the urban
edge. Mixed uses are proposed in ratios that vary over the transect; standards
for street designs of varying width and capacity, architectural and landscape
code options complete the codes.