Frequently Asked Questions
Who is Tri-County Regional Planning Commission (TCRPC)?
· TCRPC was established in 1966 as a tool of Cumberland, Dauphin and Perry counties
· TCRPC structure is a 31-member appointed board which meets quarterly, and a 7-member Executive Committee which meets monthly
· Services are provided to 103 municipalities that are grouped into 10 plan development sections to which representatives are appointed by each County Board of Commissioners, after nominations from local municipalities; also appointed are representatives from each County Planning Commission and County Commissioners
· Currently TCRPC has four (4) programs: Regional Planning, Transportation, Dauphin County and Perry County Planning Commission support; Cumberland County staffs their own County Planning Department functions, but still participates in TCRPC’s regional and transportation programs
· 15 employees (including support staff).
· TCRPC has the authority to create one (1) plan – a regional comprehensive plan that recommends a desired development pattern for the Cumberland, Dauphin and Perry County region, called the Regional Growth Management Plan.
What is the Regional Growth Management Plan (RGMP)?
Based on local data and input, the RGMP establishes a strategy for guiding growth and development in a manner that is conscious of the region’s public investments in transportation and infrastructure systems and protects and enhances the character and quality of life in the region.
The Regional Growth Management Plan focuses on balancing environmental protection and economic development to provide a foundation and framework for a sustainable economy in Cumberland, Dauphin and Perry Counties. It promotes long term prosperity for all present and future citizens of the region. The balance needed by this Plan does not sacrifice environmental quality when reasonable, creative and prudent development alternatives exist.
The Plan recognizes that a healthy economy depends on a healthy environment with effective and efficient public services and infrastructure systems for homes, businesses and people. Achieving this goal requires a new land ethic of stewardship that protects the region’s unbuilt natural environment and efficient use, redevelopment and connectivity of the built environment for use by present and future citizens of the Region.
The four main ideas of the RGMP are:
· Intergovernmental cooperation – coordinate with neighbors to maximize efficiencies and leverage opportunities and to provide a regional context in local decisions
· Land needs – determine how much development and where based on a preferred intensity; use only the land that you really need, and avoid environmentally sensitive areas
· Infrastructure investment – use past investments to the fullest, by targeting existing capacity first; once developed, there is an ongoing need to maintain and operate at necessary levels of service
· Livability and sustainability – connect and integrate land use, housing, economic and workforce development, and transportation management decisions to promote compact, infill development which support conservation and quality of life goals and quality of life
What is the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU)?
The MOU is the first step in RGMP implementation. Because land use decision-making authority in Pennsylvania is at the local municipal level, the implementation of the plan occurs as the activities and decisions of each municipality are made. So TCRPC needs to work with the municipalities, as well as the municipalities working with each other, in order to reach the goals of the RGMP. The MOU indicates what the main points of the RGMP are, and makes sure we all have a common reference point.
What does it mean to sign the MOU?
TCRPC will use the MOU as a gauge to help us focus on what resources and tools we need to make available to encourage activities at the local level that will support the direction of the RGMP. When a municipality signs the MOU it tells TCRPC that it is comfortable with, and is willing to make local decisions which help the region reach the RGMP goals. Many municipalities already embrace the ideas and directions of the RGMP.
What is the Regional Connections planning grant program?
The Regional Connections planning grant is an opportunity for TCRPC to support local development and redevelopment efforts in the individual municipalities of the region which help implement the RGMP.
What does the Regional Connections planning grant program have to offer?
TCRPC provides funding for efforts which support the creation or execution of plans within and between municipalities that connect land use and transportation planning to create a more sustainable region. Activities undertaken must emphasize context-sensitive, cost-effective solutions that serve to manage growth, enhance community character, and maximize existing infrastructure capacity. The Regional Connections planning grant program places priority on multi-municipal planning efforts necessary to provide for the orderly growth and development of the region.
What are the benefits of planning and working with TCRPC (and other planning commissions)?
Planning puts long-lasting development patterns on a more cost-effective footing. Not only in terms of economic or fiscal costs, but also environmental and social costs as well.
· Reduce municipal infrastructures and utility maintenance costs – it saves taxpayers money
· Balance growth needs with environmental protection
· Protect regional natural and cultural resources
· Provide equitable access to services, facilities, education, and employment
· Increase collaborative public and private partnerships
· Reduce clearing and grading costs
· Potentially reduce infrastructure costs (streets, curbs, gutters, sidewalks)
· Reduce storm water management costs
· Potentially reduce impact fees and increase lot yields
· Increase lot and community marketability
· Preserve existing vegetation
· Provide free instant landscaping (tree preservation)
· Preserve the integrity of ecological and biological systems
· Protect site and regional water quality by reducing sediment, nutrient and toxic loads to water bodies
· Reduce impacts to local terrestrial and aquatic plants and animals
· Preserve trees and natural vegetation
Why do we need to plan regionally?
· Local growth and development decisions can impact neighboring municipalities and the region.
· Unplanned development can place a significant burden on transportation systems, sewer and water infrastructure, school districts and municipal services.
· Neighboring municipalities share many common characteristics such as economic base, development pressure , environmental resources , traffic, and limited infrastructure.
· Multi-municipal planning and implementation is mutually beneficial, in the public interest, and necessary to allow for the distribution of land uses more sustainably in the region.
What are the advantages for municipalities to plan regionally?
· Communication/coordination among neighbors, as well as regional and potential private sector partners
· Given special consideration/priority by State agencies when reviewing funding, technical assistance or permitting applications
· Specific plans are authorized and intended to help streamline implementation of a specific vision for an area designated as commercial, industrial or other nonresidential development in a regional comprehensive plan
· Sharing land uses rather than each municipality providing for every land use, as required by law
· Transfer of development rights opportunities are permitted and complement sharing land uses across municipal boundaries
· Revenue sharing is an option to help create some equitable balance for those municipalities forgoing non-residential development
What is smart growth?
Smart growth means building urban, suburban and rural communities with housing and transportation choices near jobs, shops and schools. This approach supports local economies and protects the environment.
Growth is "smart" when it gives us great communities, with more choices and personal freedom, good return on public investment, greater opportunity across the community, a thriving natural environment, and a legacy we can be proud to leave our children and grandchildren.
When communities choose smart growth strategies, they can create new neighborhoods and maintain existing ones that are attractive, convenient, safe, and healthy. They can foster design that encourages social, civic, and physical activity. They can protect the environment while stimulating economic growth. Most of all, we can create more choices for residents, workers, visitors, children, families, single people, and older adults-choices in where to live, how to get around, and how to interact with the people around them. When communities do this kind of planning, they preserve the best of their past while creating a bright future for generations to come.
The ten principles of smart growth are:
1. Mixed land uses
2. Take advantage of compact building design
3. Create a range of housing opportunities and choices
4. Create walkable neighborhoods
5. Foster distinctive, attractive communities with a strong sense of place
6. Preserve open space, farmland, natural beauty, and critical environmental areas
7. Strengthen and direct development towards existing communities
8. Provide a variety of transportation choices
9. Make development decisions predictable, fair, and cost effective
10. Encourage community and stakeholder collaboration in development decisions
What are the benefits of ‘smart growth’?
· Focusing new housing and commercial development within already developed areas requires less public investment in new roads, utilities and amenities.
· Investment in the urban core can reduce crime, promote affordable housing and create vibrant central cities and small towns.
· By coordinating job growth with housing growth, and ensuring a good match between income levels and housing prices, smart growth aims to reverse the trend toward longer commutes, particularly to bedroom communities beyond the region’s boundaries.
· People who live within easy walking distance of shops, schools, parks and public transit have the option to reduce their driving and therefore pollute less than those living in car-dependent neighborhoods
· The negative effects of inefficient land use patterns equate to over-burdened public facilities, degraded air quality and scarce housing.