APA PA Chapter News: April

The Latest News from PA Chapter of APA…

Now that spring is here, it’s time to get out and about, make connections, and continue to improve our great state. This month, we highlight volunteer opportunities, national parks week, and the state economic development plan. Enjoy!

You Didn’t Get the Grant: Now What?
April 3 from 12:00 PM – 1:00 PM

The Infrastructure Bill has presented us with once in a lifetime opportunity to pursue life-changing transportation improvements for the communities we serve. As a planner for Delaware County, philosophically we were ready to pursue the funding; but practically, we did not have the necessary expertise on hand to pursue the complicated federal grant process. With a very supportive County Council, and weeks to spare the Delaware County Planning Department partnered with Chester Economic Development Authority to use ARPA funds to contract with Alta Planning + Design to submit a RAISE FY22 planning grant for the City of Chester, a historically disadvantaged city and area of persistent poverty. To us, Chester was the city for which this Bill was written. Working with stakeholders, we put together a solid application, collecting 34 letters of support from elected officials, businesses, non-profits, and unions. We even got the first ever letter of support from PennDOT.  We had a meeting with Charles Small from the DOT- we were a shoe in! And then, we did not get it. As a matter of fact, no one in PA got a RAISE planning grant awarded. So, what are the lessons from this experience? Where did we go wrong?  What could make the application “Highly Recommended”? Is it worth trying again? We don’t usually hear about “failures” at conferences, but they are just as important as the successes- especially when getting the money can be the hardest part. Sharing our failures can help other planners achieve success. We will discuss what we learned and why we decided to try again!

Deadline to register is Tuesday, April 2.

CM credit is pending approval. You must attend the webinar live to earn CM credit.

If you’re interested in sponsoring a Webinar Wednesday or have a session for Webinar Wednesday, please contact us. Send your request to info@planningpa.org

APA PA Conference 

The 2024 Annual Conference, Investing in a Dynamic Culture of Planning, will be October 13-15, 2024 at the Erie Bayfront Convention Center in Erie, PA.

The Annual Conference provides a unique and effective opportunity to showcase your work and capabilities to planning professionals and policy makers from across the Commonwealth. It’s also one of the ways to support planning in Pennsylvania by providing valuable networking, education, and development for planners.

The sponsorship brochure will allow you to choose the marketing opportunity that best suits your needs. 

Our conference committee are working diligently to plan a creative and innovative event, one that will pair both educational and provide networking opportunities. We look forward to including you in the continued success of the APA PA Annual Conference!

Planning Webcast Series

Earn over 50 CM credits each year online – at no cost to members of participating organizations that support the Planning Webcast Series. Webcasts take place live on Fridays from 1:00 – 2:30 PM ET and are worth 1.5 CM credits (for live viewing only) unless otherwise noted. More information online.

Communication and Membership Committee

We are always looking for volunteers to contribute articles for our monthly E-News and LinkedIn page. It’s a great way to share your work and local news with a statewide audience! Authors are credited with a by line and tagging on social media, if applicable. If you are interested or would like more information, please contact Amy Evans or Amy McKinney.

Opportunities for Giving

Each year the Chapter offers a scholarship to support individuals seeking funds for academic degree programs, internships, and professional development activities.  If anyone would like to contribute to the Chapter’s Scholarship fund, donations can be made here. We accept all major credit cards, or you can send a check. Please make your check payable to “PA Chapter of APA Scholarship Fund” and mail it to P.O. Box 4680, Harrisburg PA 17111.

Volunteers are Welcome!
By Christina Arlt, AICP

April is National Volunteer Month! Volunteering is a great way to connect with others, gain experience, learn, and give back. Are you looking to get more involved in your community or the planning profession in general? There are several ways that you can get involved.

Volunteering in your local community
Consider joining your local Planning Commission or Zoning Hearing Board. Many local governments are looking for residents to serve on their local boards and commissions. One of APA PA’s partners, the Pennsylvania Municipal Planning Education Institute (PMPEI), offers courses in Building a Strong Planning Commission, The Limits of Zoning, Managing the Subdivision Review Process, and The Zoning Officer & Zoning Hearing Board. Each course costs $25 and consists of three 1.5 hour sessions. Most are hosted in the evenings. There are options to attend online, and several counties also offer in-person options. Learn more online

Volunteer with your local section
APA PA has six sections: Northwest, Central, Northeast, Lehigh Valley/Berks, Southeast, and Southwest. Each section organizes professional development (CM) events and networking events for planners. Section Councils provide leadership and act as liaisons with APA PA’s Board of Directors. Section Councils are generally made up of a chair, vice chair, secretary, treasurer, professional planner, planning official/commissioner, professional development representative, and at-large members. The address you provided to APA determines your Section membership, but you may change to a different Section if you work in one and live in another.

Each year the location of the statewide APA PA conference rotates to a different part of the state. The local sections organize a Conference Planning Committee to identify speakers for plenary sessions, solicit sessions and mobile workshops, organize social/networking events in the evening, and encourage scholarship donations. This year’s conference will be in Erie (Northwest Section) and the 2025 conference will be in Harrisburg (Central Section).

If you’re interested in getting involved in one of the sections, please use the Contact Us form on the website and indicate which section you want to be involved in.

Volunteer with the statewide chapter
Pennsylvania has several committees, which are briefly described below.

    • Awards: Coordinates the Chapter’s annual award program that recognizes outstanding professional work and leadership in a variety of categories through an annual ceremony.
    • Communication and Membership: Shares information about our chapter via the website and social media channels to support current members and encourage new members to join.
    • Great Places in Pennsylvania: Chooses Great Places award categories and criteria, coordinates an annual application and selection process, and celebrates designated Great Places.
    • Healthy Communities: A joint effort between planners and public health officials to identify topics that bring the two fields together. Activities include raising awareness among planners, advising the Board, and coordinating with partner organizations on healthy community design.
    • Legislative: Monitors legislative proposals and drafts Chapter responses and recommendations, represents APA PA at legislative hearings or committee meetings, and takes part in legal advocacy efforts.
    • Planning Officials Development: Sponsors activities that strengthen the Chapter’s relationship with planning officials and commissioners.
    • Professional Development: Plans and produces professional development events and activities such as Webinar Wednesdays, AICP prep sessions, workshops, and conference sessions across PA.
    • Student Engagement: Focuses on student internships/employment, mentoring, scholarships, and a podcast to share the planning profession with students who might be interested in it as a career.

If you’re interested in getting involved in one of the statewide committees, please use the Contact Us form on the website and indicate which committee(s) you would like to be involved in.

National Parks Week
By Kate McMahon, AICP

National Parks Week is April 20-28; so now is a great time to check out one of the many parks, historic sites and national trails near you. Pennsylvania is home to a large variety of nationally recognized places including:

  • 19 National Parks
  • 8 National Heritage Areas
  • 4 Wild and Scenic Rivers
  • 6 National Trails
  • 169 National Historic Landmarks

Many of these national sites have a planning portfolio that guides park management and decision making and ensures compliance with laws and policies. This portfolio may include general management plans, visitor use plans, strategic plans, and implementation plans. Central to the development of these plans is a public outreach process to ensure the plans meet the needs of the park visitors. To learn more about the National Park planning process.

Planning and the State Economic Development Plan
By Brian O’Leary, AICP

After twenty years, the state has created a new ten-year economic development strategy. This strategy was sorely needed, with much of the state lagging in job growth, population growth, and general economic well-being. It’s time to see more economic growth and prosperity across Pennsylvania.

The plan, which is very high-level, is divided into five strategic initiatives, each of which could potentially impact planners:

  1. Invest in Our Economic Growth to Compete
    This initiative proposes to increase state investment in supporting business attraction and retention. A recommendation to invest in shovel ready sites could lead to new efforts to identify appropriate sites and to get these sites ready for development or redevelopment. Planners will need to be involved in this site identification process.

    The initiative also recommends investment in tourist and recreation sites, which may bring new funds for improving these facilities, especially as the nation gets ready for its 250 birthday in 2026.

  2. Make Government Work at the Speed of Business
    This initiative is focused on reducing state government red tape and improving response times. For any planners who have had to wait for a state permit or review, this is a welcome initiative; however, there are plenty of local rules and processes that bog down new businesses, housing construction, and infrastructure projects. All of us can work to make processes more streamlined and transparent.

  3. Open Doors of Opportunity for All Pennsylvanians
    This initiative supports better workforce training and education, including a potential realignment of the state higher education system, which could strongly impact communities hosting these institutions.

  4. Innovate to Win
    This initiative revolves around the five priority industries in the state – agriculture, energy, life sciences, manufacturing, and robotics and technology. Areas with strengths in any of these industries may see additional investment.

  5. Build Vibrant and Resilient Regions
    This initiative is the most relevant for planners and includes:
    • Expanding the availability of housing, although how to do this is very vague.
    • Investing more money in our downtowns and main streets. This is great news, since the state’s main street programs have been underfunded for years.
    • Grabbing as much federal infrastructure funding as possible. We’re probably all working on projects that involve this federal funding one way or another, and it’s great to see that the state will be focusing on this opportunity.
    • Creating a Pennsylvania Regional Challenge. This will incentivize regional economic development plans and strategies.

The new economic development plan is a strong start on improving the state’s economic fortunes, and it will be interesting to watch its implementation and the role of planners in these initiatives. The plan can be accessed online.