Regional Community Development News – June 2, 2011

1. OPINION | Expanding transit for Minnesota | Twin Cities Daily Planet

Minnesota's major metropolitan region is a sprawling one—the country's 16th most populous. The region's transit system, while not the most expansive, is growing ...

The existing system's operations, however, have been targeted for significant budget cuts in the state legislature. A report from the Brookings Institution has revealed that access to jobs by transit needs significant improvement, which means that cuts to existing operations are not a step but a leap in the wrong direction.

The report, "Missed Opportunity: Transit and Jobs in Metropolitan America" examines the top 100 metropolitan areas and the 371 transit systems that serve those areas. Brookings found that while 70 percent of metropolitan residents have access to transit, only 30 percent of metropolitan jobs can be accessed on transit in 90 minutes. ...

The Twin Cities ranked 39th out of the 100 largest metropolitan areas for combined transit coverage and job access, ...

Compounding this problem is the fact that several major corporate campuses have either started in or moved to suburban locations. Best Buy is headquarted in Richfield, Imation is headquartered in Oakdale, and 3M is headquartered in Maplewood, having moved out of St. Paul.

The region's unrestrained geography puts it at a disadvantage to other cities where density was necessitated by geography. Honolulu and Denver epitomize this necessity, and both rank predictably well (first and sixth, respectively). The unrestrained geography, however, does not excuse the sprawl of the Twin Cities.


2. Carbondale trustees open to grocery bag fee |

Carbondale trustees may be inclined to join their counterparts in Basalt and Aspen in support of a possible fee, rather than an outright ban, on disposable plastic and paper shopping bags.

But the board also tended to agree with Community Office for Resource Efficiency advisors who believe a more regional approach to the issue may be best.

“One of the things we talked about with the Carbondale board and that has been evolving in our discussions is that this really lends itself to a regional collaboration,” said Jason Haber, energy program manager for CORE.

“There may be tweaks to fit the needs of each community,” he said. “But it's important to have a consistent approach throughout the valley, so shoppers aren't confused and so you're not creating competitive advantages and disadvantages between communities.”

Recently, representatives from Aspen to Carbondale have been meeting to discuss a valley-wide “Waste-Free Roaring Fork” initiative.


3. Think-tank sets up northern task force-Regeneration & Renewal

A commission to examine ways of boosting the north of England's economy is being set up in a bid to fill the gap left by the demise of economic development body the Northern Way and the regional development agencies (RDAs).
Think-tank the Institute for Public Policy (IPPR) North will establish the Northern Economic Futures Commission later this month. ...

The Northern Way partnership was formed in 2004 by the RDAs for the North West, North East and Yorkshire and the Humber. It closed in March...but a report it commissioned from consultancy SQW last month warned that its closure leaves a "vacuum" that could hinder economic development in the north.

IPPR North director Ed Cox said there was an economic logic to switching to a more local approach to economic development. But he added that there is a risk that the local enterprise partnerships that are intended to replace the RDAs could prove too small to be effective on key issues such as investment and strategic planning.

4. Communist Party mulls tithe to pay for regional development - GlobalTimes

Party members could be asked to pay 10 percent extra on their annual membership fees to help revitalize the struggling economies of the Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region, Shaanxi and Gansu provinces, the Economic Observer reported on Thursday.

A draft development plan completed its final round of consultation in Xi'an, capital city of Shaanxi Province, on May 26, and now awaits final State Council approval, the Shandong Province, Ji'nan-based newspaper reported.

"I never heard of a special Communist Party fee of this kind in the history of the Communist Party of China (CPC)," Liu Zonghong, director of the History Teaching and Research Department of the CPC Shanghai Municipal Party School, told the Global Times.

If approved, all CPC members will pay the special fee for 10 years in a gesture toward the revolutionary bases of support for the Party during the final phase of the Chinese Civil War (1945-49).

5. Delaware County gets rebate check from PECO -

PECO representatives presented Delaware County Council with a $274,255 rebate check Tuesday morning for energy conservation efforts.

County Councilman Thomas McGarrigle said under the Pennsylvania Guaranteed Energy Savings Act, the county was allowed to update facilities with energy-efficient lighting, energy management controls and other equipment, which yielded reductions of a 20-25 percent in energy use and costs.
In 2009, the county received about $3.7 million in energy efficiency and conservation funding through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The federal stimulus funds are being used on several projects.

The projects include the installation of solar panels on the county Government Center.

The stimulus money is also going toward incentives to county employees who use public transportation. The TransitChek program is being administered by the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission, according to Pickett.

6. Regional plan proposal seeks feedback - Vauxhall Advance

Albertans are being asked for their input on the recommendations from an advisory council for the Southern Alberta Regional Plan, under the Land-use Framework.
Based on the province’s watershed regions, specific land-use plans are currently being developed around the province.

In the southern Alberta region, the plan refers to the watershed of the South Saskatchewan River, and is therefore known as the South Saskatchewan Regional Plan.

Little Bow MLA Barry McFarland suggested if people have concerns about the recommendations made by the South Saskatchewan Regional Advisory Council, now is the time to express those concerns.

“I think it’s something that, according to people that have been opposed to this whole regional planning concept, the Land-use Framework — the ministers have been saying all along that it’s going to take time, and that we’re going to seek public input. ...

7. Knight promotes Alberta’s long-term plans to balance economic development and conservation | Canada Views

Responsible energy practices that balance the impact of development with social and environmental objectives are a priority of the Alberta government and will be the focus of Sustainable Resource Development Minister Mel Knight’s mission to three Midwest U.S. states.

Knight will be in Wisconsin, Illinois and Indiana ... 17th International Symposium on Society and Resource Management taking place in Madison, Wisconsin. The minister will provide information about Alberta’s ongoing work, through regional planning and other provincial initiatives, to manage the cumulative effects of development on the air, land, water and biodiversity.

“Through the Land-use Framework and other initiatives, Alberta is taking a new and comprehensive approach to managing growth pressures on the landscape,” said Knight. “We must take advantage of opportunities to tell our story – Alberta will develop its resources responsibly and in a way that balances development and conservation over the long-term.”

8. 16,000 homes for 32,000-plus people - Tampa Bay Online

The Quarry Preserve, Lake Hideaway, Sunrise and Hickory Hill are projected to have a combined 16,050 homes at build-out. Figuring at least two people per household, the number is over 32,000 residents.

These mini-towns will also include: 425,000 square feet of retail space, 850,000 square feet of business parks and 795,000 square feet of commercial activity.

Manager of Economic Development Mike McHugh said people may view the people behind these projects as crazy right now, given the bad economy and the icy housing market.

But he said these developers want to lay the groundwork for the future because they know the economy will rebound and people will again flock to Florida and Hernando County.
"These projects will move forward in phases (and) the timing and the phasing of them will be dictated by demand," McHugh said.

Because of their size, they are termed "developments of regional impact," and must jump through more local and state agency hoops than smaller projects.

Not only must the county planning and zoning commission give them the once-over, they must also pass muster with the Withlacoochee Regional Planning Council and the Florida Department of Community Affairs, which must make sure they are consistent with the county's comprehensive plan.

9. Cala Homes ruling spells further planning paralysis | Magazine News | Building - UK

Experts have predicted a deepening paralysis in the planning system after an appeal court ruling this week that leaves councils unable to take into account proposed changes to the system when drawing up development plans.

The news follows an unsuccessful High Court appeal by Cala Homes against the government’s plans to scrap regional spatial strategies (RSS). The government’s plan has resulted in councils scrapping at least 220,000 homes since the coalition took office.

Despite rejecting the appeal, the three judges found that councils should only take account of the proposed scrapping of the regional plans, which contain housing targets, when making planning decisions “in extreme circumstances”. They also said councils should have no regard to the proposals when drawing up new development documents.

10. Tahoe Compact under fire in Assembly committee - San Jose Mercury News

Opponents to a bill that could pave the way for Nevada to exit the Tahoe Regional Planning agency told lawmakers Thursday that they are rethinking the move.

The new supporters told the Assembly Government Affairs Committee that SB271 may be the "hammer"— the description of choice of chairwoman Marilyn Kirkpatrick, D-North Las Vegas—to get the agency that oversees environmental protection and development in the Lake Tahoe Basin a much-needed push to update regulations and standards and improve dialogue with California.

No action was taken on the bill that has already cleared the Senate and could pave the way for Nevada to withdraw from the bi-state compact created by Congress in 1969. Any changes would need congressional and California approval. ...

Nick Vassiliadis, a lobbyist for Lake Tahoe Gaming Alliance, said small projects are frequent talking points because they represent a bigger problem.

Supporters include Leo Drozdoff, director of the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. "We can't replace what TRPA does," Drozdoff said, but added the bill my force the agency to focus on its mission.

"Maybe they need to move away from being the lake police and being more of a planning agency," he said. Drozdoff said he supported the version because it provides the right amount of pressure and the time to make a reasoned decision about staying or leaving the bi-state agreement.

"If we can't figure that out in six years then I think it's time for a different discussion." 

11. Tea Party Against Government Mandated Sustainability - NBC29

The use of the word sustainability has the Jefferson Area Tea Party calling foul. They say it has been hijacked to push a radical political agenda and they are calling on Charlottesville and Albemarle County to renounce it.

The tea party says they are all for sustainability and environmentalism as long as it isn't government mandated. But they say that is exactly what is going on in Charlottesville and Albemarle County.

In a press conference Thursday afternoon, tea party leaders said Albemarle County's participation in several groups should end. Those include the Cool Counties Initiative as well as their involvement in ICLEI - an international cooperation of city and county governments.

They also take issue with the county and Charlottesville's acceptance of a $1 million grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to facilitate better regional planning.

... "We are concerned that environmentalism in this case is being used ... to hide a greater agenda,

12. Lake Erie wind project embraces regionalism with revenue sharing agreement |

Lake Erie’s offshore wind project took a giant leap toward regionalism last week with an agreement to share revenue associated with submerged land leases across four counties. ..
John Kohlstrand, a spokesperson for Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald, said the revenue-sharing agreement sets a precedent for the project as it grows. ...
the goal is to erect about 250 turbines.

“When other land leases are reached for turbines that may be built in the future, this sets an example for the other projects that may not be located in Cuyahoga County,” Kohlstrand said. “The benefit here is by everyone working together, these multiple counties wouldn’t be feuding over the wind turbines.”

Initially, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources will receive half of the revenue from the leases for the underwater transmission lines, and the other half will be split across the four counties.
“If we were going to be a truly regional collaborative effort, there had to be some gain for everyone,” ...

13. Ice melt to close off Arctic's interior riches: study | Reuters

Higher temperatures have already led to lower summer sea ice levels in the Arctic and the melting has the potential to increase access for fishermen, tourists and oil and natural gas developers to coastal regions in coming decades.

The melting has also led to hopes that shorter Arctic shipping routes between China and Europe will open.

The Arctic is increasingly a region of deep strategic importance to the United States, Russia and China for its undiscovered resource riches and the potential for new shipping lanes. The U.S. Geological Survey says that 25 percent of the world's undiscovered oil and natural gas lies in the Arctic.

But the warming also will likely melt so-called "ice roads", the temporary winter roads developers now use to access far inland northern resources such as timber, diamonds and minerals, according to a study published on Sunday in the journal Nature Climate Change.
All eight countries that border the Arctic -- Canada, Finland, Greenland, Iceland, Norway, Russia, Sweden and the United States -- are expected to experience declines in winter-road land accessibility.

14. New executive director moves past probationary period - Tiffin, Ohio - The Advertiser-Tribune

Seneca Regional Planning Commission decided to bring the executive director up to full pay Wednesday evening.

During a meeting, the commission approved bringing Executive Director Jill Griffin's pay up to $50,000, the full pay for the position, following a probationary period where her pay was $46,000.

The recommendation came from the executive committee, the members of which determined she had met their criteria during a recent evaluation. Commission President Jim Boroff said he does not plan a raise for Griffin in the near future.

"She has progressed in the eyes of the executive committee," said Boroff, mayor of Tiffin. "We are really delighted with what she has been doing. ... She is doing far better than we anticipated."


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