In introducing the Comprehensive Community Plan 18 months ago, we explained that "Howland is a part of you as much as you are a part of her. Howland is a living, breathing, evolving being, full of your life, spirit, and energy. Howland is a means to a way of life." Through this planning process, you have made it clear that creating a community with a sustainable future and a high quality of life will be a resounding priority from this point forward.
The Comprehensive Community Plan final draft will be reviewed for approval by County and Township officials in November. The intent of this document was to provide the tools to become a community of choice, a healthy, active-living community, a center for collaboration and a standard by which public organizations and the communities they serve are judged. The final product will allow Howland to carve a sustainable future for her residents.
Public health is a focus of the plan. Rates of obesity, type-2 diabetes, and heart disease have reached epidemic proportions. Planning and land use play a major role in addressing these public health concerns. The introduction describes why public health should, and will, be at the heart of all planning and land use decisions. It seeks to increase physical activity and access to healthy food, improve water, indoor / outdoor air quality and health care access and limit injuries and violence.
The tools in the plan include, but are not limited to:
l Roundabouts. This is a transportation enhancement tool for intersections. Roundabouts have proven effective in moving traffic more efficiently. They limit travel time, reduce idling time, and are a safer alternative to big intersections. They also represent an aesthetic improvement to the community.
l Conservation design. This is a creative land development concept that prioritizes existing natural features and provides flexibility in neighborhood design, and open space for passive and active recreation.
l Economic development. The Golden Triangle will be a highlight of this section as an economic driver for the Township. Renewal and redevelopment of the Golden Triangle and Elm Road will be prioritized for adaptive re-use and improved community character and amenities.
l LEED standards. Green development and re-development is recommended and incentives will be provided to encourage green building and site development practices. LEED standards offer an established means to reach positive public health outcomes.
l Traditional neighborhood design. Popular for mix of commercial and residential uses. This is a "throwback" to old neighborhood design which highlights architecture, tree-lined streets, walkability, front porches, and community space.
l Complete streets. This is a method to promote multiple forms of safe, easy, and efficient transportation on existing and new street networks. This includes appealing and comfortable networks for cyclists and pedestrians.
l Community health assessment. More study will provide a better understanding of the overall health of the community and strategize ways to combat negative trends.
l Natural resources, Parks, and Open Space. Environmentally sensitive areas and natural resources are mapped. Solutions to connect existing neighborhoods, parks, and green areas are provided in addition to plans for additional areas and connections. Tree canopy and preservation will be prioritized as well.
l Intergovernmental cooperation. We will build upon cooperative working relationships with neighboring communities to manage sustainable growth.
The plan does not represent an end, but rather a study in the evolution of what Howland is, and where we want to be. Between redeveloping existing commercial and industrial corridors, building and connecting open space networks, establishing community gardens, and all things in between, Howland is establishing itself as a healthy place to grow.
Mark Zuppo Jr. is the Howland Zoning Director.