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2017 Annual Award Winners

The Pennsylvania Chapter of the American Planning Association (PA Chapter of APA) held its Annual Awards Luncheon in State College, PA where 350 attendees celebrated the esteemed award winners of this year’s highly competitive program. The following individuals and organizations were honored for their excellent contributions to planning in Pennsylvania Congratulations!

The following awards were given:

Daniel Burnham Award for Comprehensive Plan
Comprehensive Plan for the Preservation, Infill, and Redevelopment of Lower Merion Township

Lower Merion Township (Montgomery County)
The 2016 Lower Merion Comprehensive Plan is the township’s fifth comprehensive plan and continues a long-standing commitment to innovative planning. The plan is both visionary and pragmatic. It is issues-based and solution-driven. The plan is dense and detailed, but with graphics, maps, and photographs that enable readers to understand the issues, planning concepts, and recommended solutions. The plan emphasizes the need for form-based revisions to land development codes to support Lower Merion’s established patterns and original design intent. The plan is outstanding in the level and breadth of issues addressed, the number of individuals involved, and the dynamic approach taken to chart the course for the next 10 years. (More information in resource library)


Planning Excellence Award – Best Practice
Chester County’s Commercial Landscape Series

Chester County Planning Commission
Chester County’s Commercial Landscapes Series presents an innovative approach to repurposing older office parks, shopping centers, transit stations, and brownfield sites in the county. Many sites have become underutilized or vacant. Commercial Landscapes addresses changing market trends affecting the viability of older commercial sites. With input from industry leaders, the final documents provide renderings to illustrate new visions for aging properties plus strategies and best practices for repurposing the sites, including zoning ordinance revisions and design services to be provided by the Chester County Planning Commission. (More information in resource library)


Planning Excellence Award – Best Practice
Pittsburgh Vacant Lot Toolkit

City of Pittsburgh, Department of City Planning
The Vacant Lot Toolkit addresses the complex issue of the reuse of over 28,000 vacant lots in the City of Pittsburgh. The vacant lots compromise the city’s quality of life, property values, and the tax base. The toolkit puts particular focus on reuse for edible, flower, and rain gardens, as well as community art spaces and long term commercial reuse. The toolkit includes two parts: 1) a Policy Guide that promotes coordination among city departments and a more streamlined process for activating lots, and which resulted in a new adopt-a-lot program; and 2) a Vacant Lot Resource Guide that provides information for individuals and organizations including an easy-to-follow, step-by-step flow chart. (More information in resource library)


Planning Excellence Award – Plan Other Than a Comprehensive Plan
Community Greening Plan: A Green Stormwater Infrastructure Plan for Harrisburg

Capital Region Water
With the Community Greening Plan, Capital Region Water, the water infrastructure utility for the City of Harrisburg, committed to implementing green stormwater infrastructure throughout the city. Capital Region’s unique plan is driven by the community. The plan staged “community greening parties” and engaged over a thousand residents from every neighborhood, many of whom became Community Ambassadors in leadership roles. The plan includes city-wide analysis of opportunities to implement green infrastructure and provides illustrations and guidance for incorporating green infrastructure in homes, neighborhoods, streets and alleys, schools, parks, and vacant lots. (More information in resource library)


Student Project
Capstone Seminar in Planning and Digital Governance Graduate School Public and International Affairs

University of Pittsburgh
Students in the Capstone Seminar at the Pitt Graduate School of Public and International Affairs outlined recommendations on how digital governance can benefit planning and intergovernmental cooperation among Pennsylvania municipalities. The students produced a high quality analysis and a straightforward and understandable presentation. Recommendations dealt with digitizing records, website design that promotes equity and accessibility, incentivizing technology investments, and training for local government officials.


Planning Achievement Award – Advancing Social Change and Diversity
Leslie Richards, Secretary , PennDOT

Secretary Leslie Richards is the first female Secretary of PennDOT and one of only six women nationally who head their state transportation departments. She has used her current role, and prior role as a Montgomery County Commissioner, to advance diversity and social change. She has led many initiatives, including a program training PennDOT employees to recognize human trafficking; programs and workgroups to support diversity on the PennDOT work team; a series of town-hall events promoting Women in Transportation and Government; and “Plan W” which Richards created to increase the number of women on local government boards in Montgomery County. She is active in Habitat for Humanity and in local support for single mothers and women’s health issues, and she regularly speaks in Pennsylvania and nationally on the importance of diversity and gender inclusion in government and transportation.


Planning Leadership Award – Professional Planner
Dr. Whit Watts, Geography and Regional Planing Department, Indiana University of Pennsylvania

Dr. Whit Watts has significantly impacted planning in Pennsylvania via many citizens and professional planners who have benefitted from his commitment to people and places. He has guided hundreds of IUP students into productive and successful careers as planners and inspired them to values of community service and responsiveness. Under his leadership, the IUP Planning Student Organization was awarded Outstanding PSO by the American Planning Association in 2016. Because of his “community experience” approach to teaching, Dr. Watts and IUP students are routinely active in community planning projects. Whit is recognized for listening and working closely with communities, and for helping excite residents and officials into civic action.


Planning Leadership Award – Emerging Planner
Ryan T Judge, Senior Planner, Delaware County Planning Department

In his short time as a professional planner, Ryan Judge has consistently shown strong leadership skills as well as initiative and innovation in his work. He is a highly-motivated individual worker, and also excels when working in a team environment. At Delaware County Planning, Ryan led development of the Planner’s Portfolio Series, short, easy-to-read graphic guides for various planning topics. He has also had extensive involvement in the county comprehensive plan and the Downtown Awakening program in which the planning department creates long-range vision plans for the county’s downtowns and Main Streets.


Planning Leadership Award – Distinguished Service
Ronald K. Bednar, AICP

Ron Bednar has had an exemplary career as a professional planner, and has been a selfless volunteer for the American Planning Association at both the state and national level. In a 30-year career at the PA Department of Community and Economic Development and its predecessor the Department of Community Affairs, Ron supported hundreds of communities and planners as a patient teacher and advocate for planning. He shared his knowledge with the next generation serving as an adjunct instructor at Widener and Philadelphia Universities and a guest lecturer at Temple University. He served in leadership roles with the Southeast section and with the statewide board of the PA Chapter of APA, including serving as President of the State Chapter 2001-2003, where he implemented a number of organizational improvements. He was instrumental in bringing the national APA Conference to Philadelphia in 2007 for which he was one of three co-chairs. Ron has also been active in planning in his own community, serving on the boards of East Falls Development Corporation and East Falls Historical Society. Overall, Ron Bednar has been effective at growing participation in the affairs of the PA Chapter, and has been a strong and consistent voice for planning and the PA Chapter in the Commonwealth.


Certificate of Merit awarded to:

Pine Township (Allegheny County), Daniel Burnham Award for Comprehensive Plan, Township of Pine Performance Workbook