Lehigh Valley is at a tipping point, says Future report

logo The latest in a series of posts relating to the environment, Bethlehem’s Climate
Action Plan, and Bethlehem’s Environmental Advisory Council  logo

The full version of FutureLV: The Regional Plan can be found at LVPC.org.

Gadfly suggests that we try to get our heads around these big ideas that are swirling all around us.

When a major report like this comes out, Gadfly wishes that there was some formal public response from our Administration and our planning people to acknowledge the report, to indicate their involvement in and/or awareness of the process that produced it, but especially what it means specifically for us.

Is a report like this shaping thinking and decisions at City Hall?

Some soundbites:

  • The Lehigh Valley is at a tipping point.
  • The central mission of FutureLV is striking a delicate balance between successful growth and necessary preservation.
  • At the heart of the plan is a “centers and corridors” concept that, essentially, recommends building up what’s already been developed.
  • It directs new development and redevelopment to 57 activity centers where people live, work, shop or play, and the corridors that connect them.
  • It will mean more mixed-use development.
  • The plan includes $2.5 billion in transportation funding for roads, bridges, trails and sidewalks. It’s simply not enough.
  • Ultimately, it means denser centers. Before anyone curses that D word, know that density is a good thing.
  • The thing people liked most about living in the region is its parks, trails and recreation areas, and the number two thing was its farmlands and natural resources. Those things have come to define our character and identity.
  • Our environment has become a key part of our identity.

Becky Bradley, “How to strike a balance between growth and preservation.” Morning Call, December 1, 2019.

The Lehigh Valley is such a successful region that 4,000 to 6,000 more people arrive every year to take advantage of its unique character, beautiful landscape and high quality of life. But how do we preserve all that good, while managing all that growth? Well, we’ve been working on that for close to three years. The result of that work — along with input and ideas from literally thousands of people from across Lehigh and Northampton counties — is FutureLV: The Regional Plan.

FutureLV is a blueprint designed to guide the region to 2045 and beyond. The fact is, the Lehigh Valley is at a tipping point. We’re not only growing fast in people, but we’re developing fast. The e-commerce boom has clearly overheated our warehousing market, but we’re also seeing growing development in almost every area, from commercial to residential to industrial. Even brick and mortar retail development continues, despite the ominous threat of online shopping and the associated “retail apocalypse,” written about by every major financial publication from The Wall Street Journal to Money magazine.

The central mission of FutureLV is striking a delicate balance between successful growth and necessary preservation.

At the heart of the plan is a “centers and corridors” concept that, essentially, recommends building up what’s already been developed. It means taking advantage of the sewer, water, road, gas, electric, technology and building infrastructure that’s already built. It directs new development and redevelopment to 57 activity centers where people live, work, shop or play, and the corridors that connect them. These range from downtown Allentown to Portland’s business district to Madison Farms in Bethlehem Township.

It will mean more mixed-use development where residential, commercial and retail can co-exist, more walkable neighborhoods where pedestrians, bicyclists and people with disabilities don’t feel unsafe crossing an intersection, more bike and bus lanes and a more connected transportation system.

The plan includes $2.5 billion in transportation funding for roads, bridges, trails and sidewalks. It’s simply not enough. We’ve already identified $4 billion in projects that need done, but aren’t funded. So, we’ll have to be creative and efficient in spending the money we have, while working hard to improve that funding picture.

Ultimately, it means denser centers. Before anyone curses that D word, know that density is a good thing. It puts activity and foot traffic where our neighborhoods and businesses need it most. It will also make our public transit network more efficient and, in the long run, might even be the ticket to light rail.

More importantly, it will save us from ourselves. It will keep us from building homes, big box stores and, yes, warehouses on farm fields or open space or along roads where they don’t make sense, economically or otherwise.

So why is saving the environment important to saving the Lehigh Valley? Two reasons out of a thousand: People told us it is, and it adds value to our economy and region as a whole.

In a survey taken by nearly 1,100 residents last year, the thing people liked most about living in the region is its parks, trails and recreation areas, and the number two thing was its farmlands and natural resources. Those things have come to define our character and identity and are why thousands of people every day drive long distances from jobs to get back here.

But more importantly, saving our environment and making the region more resilient makes sense, and dollars and cents. Our Return on Environment report in 2014 showed that our environment — trees, streams, open space and more — returned more than $1 billion a year in value in the form of reduced health care costs, cleaner air and water and in general a more livable environment. The point is, our environment has become a key part of our identity. Saving it is just as important as growing our economy, maintaining our roads and providing every Lehigh Valley resident with an opportunity for a good life.

It’s Wednesday, December 11, do you know where your local Climate Action Plan is?

Rothman reports for the Environmental Advisory Council

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Note well: City Council is taking applications to fill a vacant position on the EAC.

To apply, email a letter of interest along with a resume to Adam Waldron, Council President (awaldron@bethlehem-pa.gov).

At the end of the letter cc:  Members of Council.  When sending, copy the email to Clerks@bethlehem-pa.gov enabling the City Clerk to distribute the application to Members of Council. Application may also be mailed to City Hall, 10 East Church Street, Bethlehem PA 18018.

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Bethlehem’s volunteer Environmental Advisory Council was well represented in presentations at City Council last night.

Here is chair Lynn Rothman presenting this very active committee’s annual report.

 

EAC 2019 Yr End Report

Your non-tax dollars valuably at work!

Gadfly strongly encourages his environmentally focused followers to attend the EAC meetings (7PM, first Thursday of the month, in the beautiful Illick’s Mill) and to apply for membership on the Council.

This group gets things done!

It’s Wednesday, December 4, do you know where your local Climate Action Plan is?

Bethlehem Environmental Advisory Council News: funding for the Climate Action Plan and a position available

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Lynn Rothman is an Environmental Scientist, having previously worked for the Environmental Protection Agency. She currently chairs the Bethlehem Environmental Advisory Council and serves on the board of the Sustainable Energy Fund, among other volunteer activities with non-profit organizations. 

November 21st Budget Meeting

At the November 21st budget meeting, it was announced that the City budgeted $80,000 for a consultant to complete a Climate Action Plan in 2020 (General Fund p. 166).   The EAC commends the City for moving ahead with this important initiative and its commitment to climate action.  We appreciate the time and effort spent by the Dept. of Public Works to bring us to this point in the process.  The EAC is proud of our City and will continue to assist in the climate action planning process in every way possible.

We also support Councilman Reynolds’ remarks during the budget meeting stating that the City could focus more on sustainability. He emphasized that this is especially important given the uncertainty of the recycling market and because the priority of actions to most effectively manage waste and protect the environment is to Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. As Councilman Reynolds stated, “We talk about the idea of building a sustainable city, and we do not have a director of sustainability.”  He continued to say that while many departments are doing a fantastic job of individually contributing to this effort, as we move forward with the Climate Action Plan, there may be an opportunity to have a point person on sustainability, possibly as part of the Dept. of Recycling.

(For Councilman Reynolds’ comments, go to the City video of the November 21 budget meeting, min. 45:30.)

EAC Members

Bethlehem EAC member Kathy Fox has resigned from the council in order to devote more time to her new position as board member of the Bethlehem Food Co-Op. Kathy will be sorely missed on the EAC, where she has been a strong and vocal advocate for sustainability, green infrastructure, and climate action.  Kathy chairs our Solar Energy Committee, and we are fortunate that she will continue her connection with the EAC, albeit in a different capacity.

Residents of Bethlehem City who would like to apply for a position on the EAC may email a letter of interest, along with a resume to Adam Waldron, Council President, at awaldron@bethlehem-pa.gov.  Please copy “Members of City Council” on the letter of interest. When sending, copy the email to Clerks@bethlehem-pa.gov , enabling the City Clerk to distribute your application to Members of Council. Alternatively, a hard copy may be mailed to 10 East Church Street, Bethlehem, PA 18018.

Lynn

It’s Saturday, November 23, do you know where your local Climate Action Plan is?

Bethlehem’s Climate Action Plan re-budgeted

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Before we get to the CAP, salute to climate action warrior and Gadfly follower Christine!

Martha Christine, “Let’s follow lead of young people on climate change.” Morning Call, November 7, 2019.

  • We have some amazing young people in the Lehigh Valley. Last week I joined more than two dozen informed and engaged Lehigh University students, along with a handful of community members, to comment on the Global Youth Climate Action Declaration.
  • The Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act (H.R. 763) is one solution gaining bipartisan support in the House of Representatives. It has 68 sponsors, including Congresswoman Susan Wild. It’s designed to cut carbon emissions by collecting a fee from fossil fuel companies and returning funds to households through monthly dividend checks. It’s good for people, good for the economy and good for the climate.

Gadfly followers have been wondering what happened to the plan to hire a consultant to write a local Climate Action Plan before the end of 2019.

Nicole Radzievich’s Morning Call story on the 2020 budget contains the following:

“The budget reflects the city’s strong financial position, and I’m excited that the administration has funded my request for the Climate Action Plan,” said Councilman J. William Reynolds, who attended the event.

The city had planned to hire a consultant to develop a blueprint for the city to reduce its carbon footprint, but the the $30,000 the city allocated for it fell about $50,000 short of what was needed.

The high price of consultancy. Now we know!

It’s Saturday, November 9, do you know where your local Climate Action Plan is?

“The Pollinators” film

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Action Plan, and Bethlehem’s Environmental Advisory Councillogo

Re-posted from LVMM Friends Facebook page:

On Wednesday, Nov. 6 at 6:30, at the Promenade Theater in Center Valley , “The Pollinators “ will be shown, IF enough tickets are sold in advance. Buy tickets at On Demand Films, search film title and state. This is an informative and beautiful documentary, including the role of migratory beekeepers from our state. As the Beeman says, “Save the bees, pollination, food for us!”

Council passes the resolution recommending state action on the single-use plastic bag legislation

logoThe latest in a series of posts relating to the environment, Bethlehem’s Climate Action Plan, and Bethlehem’s Environmental Advisory Councillogo

Followers know the sad news that our local Environmental Advisory Council (EAC) proposed ban of single-use plastic bags took a hit because of a one-year legislative moratorium in order to study the issue.

At Council Tuesday October 15, however, Council passed a resolution from the Administration supporting passage of the ban:

Plastic Bags Support Resolution-1

EAC member Elisabeth Cichonski spoke in favor of the resolution:

And the resolution passed, Councilman Reynolds speaking for it and, as he has done before, advocating additional measures to insure the good goals of the proposed legislation will be achieved.

Good work, all around!

It’s Thursday, October 17, do you know where your local Climate Action Plan is?

The Festival’s amazing “Sustainability Forum” for high school students

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Kathy Fox is a member of the Bethlehem Environmental Advisory Council, a co-chair of the Northampton County Council of Democratic Women’s Environmental Committee, and a member of the Board of Directors of the Bethlehem Food Co-op.  Kathy involves herself in positive organizations and activities that foster community, environmental awareness, education, and good health. 

Gadfly:

There were so many wonderful experiences to be had during Festival UnBound. I wish I could have done them all. I wanted to highlight one event that was meaningful to me personally. Touchstone Theatre’s Festival Unbound was about having a conversation about where Bethlehem is going as a community from this time forward. The festival included a Sustainability Forum for high schools students. Students attending Freedom, Liberty, Bethlehem Catholic, Charter Arts, and Moravian Academy had an opportunity to tell the City their opinion on how to make Bethlehem a more sustainable community. 178 students submitted essays, which outlined their individual opinions on the most important way for Bethlehem to be more sustainable.

All of the essays were read by Paul Pierpoint, then the students were invited to attend the Saturday afternoon Sustainability Forum at Zoellner Arts Center at Lehigh University. Community leaders involved in sustainability and environmental projects were asked to help by facilitating small groups of students, where each student presented his or her idea to their group. Their ideas were summarized on a white board, and the students in each group voted on the one idea their group would present to everyone at the concluding session. The attending parents and interested citizens from Bethlehem were allowed to walk around and visit each group to hear the discussion.

[Here’s a short video of Paul Pierpoint commenting on the student essays at the panel discussion of “Prometheus / Redux.”]

It was an amazing experience for me to listen to the well thought-out, researched, and heartfelt opinions of these young people. Our future depends on us older citizens listening to them and using our decision-making abilities and positions of influence to make effective change to sustain our world for the future generations.

The 178 essays will be bound and given to Mayor Donchez and City Council for them to read, digest, and understand what our city’s youth feel will make our community a better, more sustainable place.

It was an honor to participate as a facilitator at the Forum along with notable and passionately involved members of our community. The other facilitators were Willie Reynolds (City Councilman), Steve Samuelson (PA State Representative), Darlene Heller  City Director of Planning), Don Miles (Sierra Club-Lehigh Valley Chapter and environmental attorney), Bruce Wilson (Lehigh Valley Green Builders), and Karen Beck Pooley (Board member of the Bethlehem Area School District). I was very happy to represent the Bethlehem Food Co-op and the Bethlehem Environmental Advisory Council.

Anne Hills and Reese, a young songwriter from Emmaus High School, started us out and ended our day with original music they composed and sang.

I apologize for not mentioning a couple of key people involved because I cannot remember everyone’s names.

I am grateful every day for the good in Bethlehem.

And thank you Touchstone Theatre for everything you do for the community.

Kathy

The Festival is over, but Gadfly will be posting for a while on the panels and other activities that were part of the Festival. Yes, thank you Touchstone Theatre for everything you do for the community.