Buffalo Niagara is building on a strong foundation of planning and policy in our effort to create a more sustainable future for our region. We are definitely not “starting from scratch” but continuing good work already in progress to build an economy for the 21st century, to preserve and restore our natural and built environment, and to strengthen our communities.
The Erie-Niagara Framework for Regional Growth described the costs of sprawl for our region. The recent Regional Economic Development Council Strategy for Prosperity, and The Buffalo Billion investment Development Plan together represent unprecedented strategic action toward a fundamental revival of our economy. Our Long Range Transportation Plan, Buffalo Niagara 2050, will rationalize our infrastructure investments according to a “smart growth” paradigm.
And the five-county sustainability program funded by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority provides a basic framework for reducing our “carbon footprint” in Western New York. Taken together, this work provides a strong starting point for One Region Forward and gives strong direction to our coming deliberations.
Erie Niagara Framework for Regional Growth
Completed in 2006, the Framework for Regional Growth is the cornerstone for One Region Forward. It described the roots of sprawling development, calculated the costs of sprawl to the public, and laid down the guiding principles necessary to make coordinated and consistent decisions about growth and development in our region.
One Region Forward will build on the essential work of the Framework to create practical and potent mechanisms to implement its vision for a more efficient, cost-effective, and ultimately more sustainable pattern of development in our region. 1RF will support those implementation efforts with public education, capacity building opportunities and planning resources to carry it forward.
A Strategy for Prosperity and The Buffalo Billion
For the first time in living memory, Buffalo Niagara has a clear, compelling, and consensus-based strategy for economic revival — now backed by a billion dollar investment pledge by Governor Andrew Cuomo.
The recently released Buffalo Billion plan calls for strategic investments in export-oriented and job-creating growth sectors including advanced manufacturing, health and life sciences, and tourism, with support for economic fundamentals in workforce development, entrepreneurship, and next-generation infrastructure. The Strategy for Prosperity (2011) similarly emphasized the importance of promoting “smart growth” as a way to make doing business here more efficient and cost-effective.
Created by Governor Cuomo, the Regional Economic Development Councils represent a fundamental shift in New York State’s approach to economic development—from a top-down development model to a community-based approach that leverages each region’s unique assets, harnesses local expertise and empowers each region to set plans and priorities.
Strengthening WNY’s Safety Net
An initiative of the John R. Oishei Foundation, Strengthening WNY’s Safety Net is a regional effort to strengthen human services across communities in Western New York. By assessing needs, services, gaps and opportunities for human service delivery, the goal is to ensure residents can readily access the services they need to get back on their feet and rebound.
Understanding barriers to opportunity experienced in communities across the region is critical to creating a more sustainable and prosperous Buffalo Niagara. The wealth of firsthand, local knowledge generated by the Mobile Safety Net Team’s interviews, focus groups, and one-on-one interviews with service providers as well as clients is helping to inform the work of One Region Forward, most directly through the analysis and strategies being produced through the Fair Housing Equity Assessment (FHEA). In addition, the Mobile Safety Net Team is helping to engage disadvantaged populations in the One Region Forward process.
To see all Strengthening WNY’s Safety Net Community Reports completed to date, please visit the University at Buffalo Regional Institute’s website.
Western New York Sustainability Plan
Reduction in greenhouse gases is the overarching goal of the WNY Sustainability Plan (2012). Conducted under the “Cleaner Greener Communities” program of the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA), the plan includes a first-ever greenhouse gas emissions inventory for five participating counties (Allegany, Cattaraugus, Chautauqua, Erie, and Niagara).
The plan prioritizes projects and programs for energy conservation and efficiency, production of renewable energy, and innovations that promote economic development. It also sets goals for promoting more efficient land use, improved transportation, better management of solid waste and water resources, and protection and promotion of agriculture and forestry.
The plan will be used, in part, by the Regional Economic Development Council, as a means for prioritizing project seeking state funding for implementation. It also established quantitative indicators to measure our progress toward the goals in the plan.
One Region Forward will build on the work done by the land use group from the WNY Sustainability Plan, which, in turn, carried forward the efforts of the “smart growth” group from the REDC strategy process. 1RF will also recycle the indicators developed for the Sustainability Plan.
The Buffalo Green Code
Planners in Buffalo will complete work in 2013 on a replacement for the City’s 60-year old zoning code and land use plan. The new “Unified Development Ordinance,” commonly referred to as “The Buffalo Green Code” will govern the growth and redevelopment of our region’s primary central city over the next 20 years and more.
The Buffalo Green Code is a major step in the implementation of Queen City in the 21st Century: the Buffalo Comprehensive Plan, adopted in 2006. It is designed to enhance the unique character of Buffalo’s neighborhoods and increase the city’s economic competitiveness by promoting transit-oriented development, walkable mixed-use streets, and cutting edge sustainable development.
The vision for a more sustainable city was developed throughout a three-year process that captured the voices of thousands of citizens. The values they expressed in creating the Buffalo Green Code will be reflected as we shape the vision for a more sustainable region in the One Region Forward project.
Buffalo Brownfield Opportunity Areas
Buffalo Niagara was built by the wealth of 19th and 20th century industries. Now that much of that industry has gone away, the legacy of old buildings and lands that may be contaminated present a distinct challenge to achieving future sustainability.
New York State’s Brownfield Opportunity Areas (BOA) program provides financial support and technical assistance to municipalities to create strategies and implementation plans to clean up old industrial sites and return them to productive use.
The City of Buffalo has completed a master plan for its South Buffalo BOA and is preparing nominations for three other BOAs — on the Outer Harbor, the Buffalo River, and the Tonawanda Street rail corridor. Niagara County, the City of Niagara Falls, and the Town of Tonawanda (?) also have undertaken work under the BOA program.
Buffalo Niagara 2050 Metropolitan Transportation Plan
A key element in our Regional Plan for Sustainable Development will be planning for investments in our regional transportation system. The shape of that system has a big impact on how much energy we use, how clean our air is, how our labor market functions, how our economy works, and what kind of land use pattern will evolve over time.
The Greater Buffalo Niagara Transportation Council (GBNRTC) is the federally designated metropolitan planning organization charged with planning for investments in regional transportation infrastructure. GBNRTC is already hard at work on creating Buffalo Niagara 2050, the long range plan for Erie and Niagara counties.
The Regional Sustainability Team and the One Region Forward steering committee is intent on making sure that the transportation plan and the sustainability plan are well coordinated to help us achieve the more sustainable region we desire.