Genesee County Comprehensive Plan Background
The “seeds” for the County Comprehensive Planning Process were sown back in 1988 when Genesee 2000 was formed to “devise strategic options for the future development of Genesee County”. To carry out this effort a Management Team consisting of the County Manager Charles Meyer, Genesee Community College President Stuart Steiner, County Legislator Dr. Roger Triftshauser , and co-chairpersons Neil Burns (Executive Director of the Genesee County Industrial Development Agency) and Gloria Stonecipher (General Manager of The Daily News). A 20 person Steering Committee was recruited and three task forces, Infrastructure, Development and Housing, were formed, consisting of a total of approximately 85 additional persons. Genesee 2000's report entitled “Moving To Meet The Future” identified a number of “challenges” followed by statement of “opportunities” which were followed up by a series of recommended “actions”. One recommendation found in Genesee 2000's “Moving To Meet The Future” report was the development of a county master plan. This report stated “If we are able, in the year 2000, to look back upon a decade of fulfilled dreams and realized goals, it is undeniable the cooperation and planning will have been the essential elements in any success stories that are told.”
Genesee 2000 issued subsequent reports entitled “Environmental Scan” in January 1989, “Action Plan” in June 1990 and “Genesee 2000 Update” in July 1994. The 1994 “Genesee 2000 Update” once again identified the development of what was then being called a “county comprehensive plan” as a priority. The “Genesee 2000 Update” suggested the County develop a RFP (Request for Proposals) to hire a consultant to work with the County on the development of a county comprehensive plan.
In 1996, the County Legislature authorized the development of a County comprehensive plan including making funding available and hiring a consultant. Approximately 150 individuals representing various units/levels of government, nonprofit agencies, business and industry, and interested citizens worked on the initial development of the Comprehensive Plan serving on the Steering Committee and one or more of the original nine Focus Groups. The Genesee County Comprehensive Plan was prepared to articulate a common direction and vision for Genesee County and to improve coordination among the County and its local governments. The Plan focused on issues which involve County funding or program administration and those which would benefit from intergovernmental cooperation. An overall goal is to improve the efficiency of the delivery of public services. Originally nine "focus areas" were defined for the Plan as follows: Land Use; Economic Development; Government Administration; Law Enforcement and Emergency Management; Health and Human Services; Housing; Utilities; Transportation; and Parks, Recreation, and Culture. In 2000, the Steering Committee added a tenth focus group, Technology. The Comprehensive Plan Document included the fundamental elements or "cornerstones" of the Plan, an overall "Vision Statement" for the County, and the key recommendations of the original nine Focus Groups established during the planning process. The Implementation section of the Plan contained a series of recommended actions, organized by the timeframe in which they were to be accomplished. The County Comprehensive Plan included a Maintenance section which included actions to monitor the County's progress toward achieving the goals and actions set forth in the Plan.
Cornerstones of the Comprehensive Plan
More than 200 recommended actions were formulated by the original nine Focus Groups in creating the Comprehensive Plan. A review of these recommendations revealed a significant interrelationship between many of the proposed actions. For example, strong linkages are recognized between economic development, highways, available housing, and utilities (water, in particular). The need for public transportation links health and human services and economic development and is impacted by land use and housing decisions.
The linkages that stand out between the nine focus areas serve as the "cornerstones" of the Comprehensive Plan. These include:
- Increased coordination and communication
- Shared services and facilities
- Technical assistance to local governments and schools
- Training of public officials
- Infrastructure (especially public water)
- Agricultural land base
- Marketing/Promotion of Genesee County
The purpose of the Vision Statement within the Comprehensive Plan is to consider the current "state" of the County and to determine its future direction and opportunities. What "vision" should the County have as it enters the 21st century? Such a vision would include how the County should look in the future, the identification of the County's primary goals, and the role that County government should play in striving to attain this vision.
The following articulates a vision of the future for Genesee County:
The Vision for Genesee County government is to improve the efficiency, convenience and quality of public services to County residents, businesses, and visitors. An important means to this end is to increase coordination and cooperation between and among County, State, and municipal agencies and school districts in order to reduce duplicative efforts. A cooperative working relationship should be established with the Tonawanda Indian Nation.
The County should take a leadership role in the sharing of services, facilities, equipment, and information. A notable step in this direction would be the coordination of a computer network to electronically connect local and County governments, school districts, and private agencies. Open communication and easy access to information should be available to government agencies as well as to the public.
The County has a significant responsibility in maintaining a desirable regional balance of land uses, including residential, commercial and industrial development; agricultural land retention; and protection of sensitive natural resources. The County should recognize the economic and environmental implications of the extension of highways and utilities (especially water), oversee the construction of major capital improvements in appropriate locations, and should work with municipalities to coordinate infrastructure improvements. Economic development should be enhanced by increased efforts to retain and expand the County's industrial base, which provides job growth and prosperity, to encourage agriculture, and to support tourism and related retail and service uses.
The County should continue and strengthen its role in providing technical assistance and acting as a clearinghouse of information for municipal and private organizations and the general public. The County should expand existing efforts to provide training for public officials, particularly in the areas of land use and development, and to improve business management skills.
Once the County Legislature adopted the Comprehensive Plan on January 28, 1998, the actual work on the “planning process” was far from being over, in fact in many respects it was just beginning. Implementation of the County’s Comprehensive Plan is a major undertaking. Oversight responsibility for this implementation and the ongoing continuation of the planning process has been given to the Steering Committee which carries out this function through its ten Focus Groups. The Steering Committee meets on a monthly basis and receives reports from the individual Focus Groups as well as making suggestions/recommendations on how to accomplish specific recommendations and the development of new recommendations. The Steering Committee also serves as a linkage between the County Legislature and the Comprehensive Planning Process through its reporting function. Monitoring reports are developed by the ten Focus Groups to address the status of each of their respective recommendations. These monitoring reports are reviewed by the Steering Committee and are passed on to the County Legislature. While the County Legislature receives a complete accounting of the approximately 200 recommendations in both “long” and “short” formats, a brief listing “highlights” for each of the ten Focus Groups has been developed and is included in this report. These “highlights” include several recommendations still being worked on as well as several successes for each of the ten Focus Groups.
Through the efforts of the County Legislature, the Steering Committee, the ten Focus Groups and the many involved departments, agencies, groups and interested citizens, the Comprehensive Planning Process has yielded the results outlined by Genesee 2000 back in1988 when it said “If we are able, in the year 2000, to look back upon a decade of fulfilled dreams and realized goals, it is undeniable the cooperation and planning will have been the essential elements in any success stories that are told.”