Sustainability is a very popular word these days from environmental groups to the Orange County government website. Part of OE’s legacy is advocating for sustainable growth and sustainable master planning for local municipalities and Orange County as a whole.
Now and in the past OE has reviewed and weighed in on master planning documents for local and regional municipalities such as the Town of Wawayanda and on environmental impact statements for the planning of casinos in Sullivan County. They have offered alternative plans such as their Wallkill River Action Plan, a protection/restoration effort necessary to ensure the purity of local water resources. And just as important, OE has provided instructional workshops to the public at large on reviewing master plans and Environmental Impact Statements, and understanding the application of the SEQR process (State Environmental Quality Review Act)for sustainable growth strategies.
Sustainability means understanding the cost of the existing growth pattern—in dollars, congestion, lost quality of life, and lost environmental quality—as an excessive burden for taxpayers and residents now and an unacceptable legacy for the future. Early on OE offered their take on important sustainability indicators to be included in any planning process, such as (but not limited to):
- Level of congestion on local and county roads
- Percent of retail businesses located in areas with primary accessibility to pedestrians. (Percent of people who have to drive to a store)
- Communities having pedestrian access to recreational areas from areas of residential density
- Gallons of water used by municipal systems
- Number of communities declaring water shortages
- Number of communities reporting environmental contamination
- Local and regional health issues and cancer rates
- Number of acres preserved as open space and as agricultural land.
- Number of water treatment plants in the area and on local waterways
- Number of CWA (Clean Water Act) violations at STPs (Sewage Treatment Plants).
- How is solid waste and recycling handled
- Number of farmers markets and CSAs.
- Number of main streets having undergone revitalization.
- Number of historic districts and national register sites and buildings
- Ranking in air pollution, water pollution and hazardous sites on Scorecard
- How many acres of forested land.
- streams in the states protected category
- Number of towns and villages with their own wetland protection laws above state and federal standards
- How many communities have updated their master plans within the past five years?
OE has been talking about viewing the county environmental health in a holistic perspective for just about two (2) decades. In their watchdog role since 1982 they saw the interconnectedness of the environmental issues they worked on and became an early leader on broader issues of sustainability. With many years of experience and recognized expertise in this field, OE provides the much needed leadership and guidance in developing and implementing sustainability strategies.