Planificadores del Lehigh Valley casi se van a los puños

boxeadoresBueno, eso fue un poco exagerado, nunca he visto a ningún planificador boxear. Sinceramente, no me lo quiero ni imaginar. La mayoría de los planificadores que he conocido son personas educadas, inteligentes, consideradas y, de hecho, de las menos agresivas que conozco.  Aunque, algunas veces no estén de acuerdo en decisiones bien importantes… como el uso y la distribución de la tierra.

Debido a estas discusiones (lo cual encuentro fascinante pero he escuchado a muchos decir que este tema hace a muchas personas quedarse dormidos), y debido a que sus desacuerdos suceden desde antes que alguna pala entre a la tierra, usualmente estas situaciones no reciben la atención que merecen.

Nada es más importante para la calidad de vida de nuestra región que las decisiones que nuestros gobernantes locales hacen en el uso de la tierra.

Aquí en Pennsylvania, el poder es local. La última decisión la toma la junta municipal que vota para aprobar las recomendaciones de nuestras comisiones de planificación local. Estas juntas son muchas veces motivadas por ambiciones a corto plazo para aumentar sus impuestos base – y es por esto que vemos las fincas desapareces.

Algo interesante ocurrió el 29 de mayo en estos ambientes. En una esquina tienen a la comisión de planificación de Lynn Township. En la otra, la comisión de planificación del Lehigh Valley (LVPC). Los comisionados de planificación de Lynn Township quieren cambiar los reglamentos de zonificación de las tierras para agricultura en su municipio para uso comercial.

Y… ¿Qué pasó? La comisión de planificación de Lynn Township dijo que sí a cambiar las reglas de zonificación de área preservada para la agricultura a uso comercial. El LVPC dijo que no.

Los detalles, de acuerdo a WFMZ: Los planes del Lynn Township de reorganizar una zona de propiedades a lo largo de la ruta 309 al otro lado de la escuela superior Northwestern Lehigh no fueron apoyados por LVPC anoche. LVPC unánimemente autorizó al equipo a enviar cartas a los residentes de este municipio ubicado en la zona rural del noroeste del Lehigh County pidiendo a los supervisores a no adoptar los cambios propuestos. Esta situación incluye cinco propiedades localizadas entre la ruta 309 y la Calle Weiss en la esquina este del municipio, cerca de la frontera con el municipio de Heidelberg. Read the rest of this entry

Vamos a apoyar el compostaje en el Lehigh Valley

Siendo nueva en el área del Lehigh Valley, he estado descubriendo los campos y la belleza de la naturaleza que esta área posee. El reto de sostenibilidad de EnvisionLV me ha inspirado a contribuir para preservar la naturaleza que nos rodea. Por esto, he desarrollado prácticas más eco-amigables y un estilo de vida sostenible para reducir los impactos ambientales de mi hogar.compostlogo2

¿Qué incluyen mis prácticas? Primero, reducir el uso de bolsas plásticas. Segundo, apoyar la economía local y los mercados de agricultores locales. Más allá, me gustaría reducir la generación de basura de mi  hogar. Afortunadamente, residentes del Lehigh Valley pueden reciclar plástico, vidrio, latas de aluminio, papel y cartón. Si vives en un área en donde no recogen los reciclajes, tú mismo puedes llevarlo a cualquier facilidad de reciclaje del área.

He encontrado mucha información en línea acerca de facilidades locales en donde puedes llevar los desechos del patio. También, hay páginas en línea del proceso de compostaje. Sin embargo, no todas las personas tienen el espacio para hacerlo, especialmente si viven en apartamentos. Yo no quisiera enviar estos desechos de alimentos al vertedero. Creo que estos deberían ser enviados a alguna facilidad en donde se puedan procesar y convertir en abono. Desgraciadamente, no hay ninguna facilidad aquí que lo haga.

Buscando más información acerca de este tema, leí el Reporte hecho por Greater Lehigh Valley Buy Fresh Buy Local, un programa del Nurture Nature Center. De acuerdo con este estudio, varios municipios del Lehigh Valley pueden hacer composta de desechos del patio, pero ninguno está haciendo composta de desechos de comida de residencias o negocios. Este reporte también menciona lo beneficios que tendría la economía local al implementar estas prácticas. Otros municipios alrededor de los Estados Unidos han implementado prácticas y políticas para reducir la generación de basura, incluyendo el compostaje de desechos de alimentos. Esto ha ayudado a estos municipios a ahorrar dinero. Por ejemplo, el reporte menciona que la ciudad de Seattle ahorró $250,000 con su programa de compostaje de desechos de alimentos. Read the rest of this entry

Why can’t I compost my food waste in the Lehigh Valley?

compostlogo2I am new to the Lehigh Valley and am really enjoying spring and the beauty of the area.   Learning about the EnvisionLV Sustainability Challenge has inspired me to want to take action to preserve the beauty of the Lehigh Valley.  I have developed a more eco-minded and sustainable lifestyle by reducing my household environmental impacts.

What does this mean?  First, I started by reducing plastic bags. Second, I have found several farmers’ markets that help me to consume more fresh local food. Third, I would now like to find ways to reduce my household waste, especially food waste. I have noticed that residents of the Lehigh Valley are able to recycle glass, plastic, aluminum cans, paper and cardboard. Actually, I have been informed that even if you live in an area where recyclables are not picked up, you could drop them at many recycling facilities, including those in Allentown and Bethlehem.

I have seen online educational material about yard waste recycling and composting offered through many municipalities in the region. Many websites show how to compost at your home. However, home composting is not feasible for people, like me, who live in apartments. I would like to use my food and organic waste for composting instead of sending it to the landfill, but where can I do it?  As a new arrival I have noticed that the missing piece of the Lehigh Valley is food waste composting.

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Lehigh Valley Planners Duke It Out

Boxing 1024x768 Wallpaper # 1

Okay, I have never actually seen planners go to fisticuffs.  Frankly, I cannot even imagine it.  Thoughtful, intelligent, educated people, most of the planners I know are some of the least confrontational people I have met. And yet, they sometimes deeply disagree about really important issues…like land use and zoning — the DNA of our communities.

Because their disagreements are about land use and zoning (which I find fascinating, but I hear from my friends can put many people to sleep), and because their disagreements happen long before a shovel goes in the ground, their issues often don’t get the attention they deserve.

Nothing is more important to the quality of life in our region than the land use planning decisions our local government councils make.

Here in Pennsylvania, the power is local.  Decisions ultimate rest with the municipal councils that vote to approve the recommendations of our local planning commissions.  Those councils are often motivated by short term desires to increase their tax base — and we see farmland disappear because of it.

There was some excitement on May 29th in planning circles.  In one corner you had the Lynn Township planning commission.  In the other, the Lehigh Valley Planning Commission.  Lynn Township planning commissioners want to change the zoning of some farmland in their municipality  to commercial.  LVPC disagreed with the Lynn Township planning commission, believing that it should stay zoned for agricultural preservation.   

What happened? Lynn Township Planning Commission said, “yes” to rezoning from preserved agricultural to commercial.  The LVPC said, “no.”

The details, according to WFMZ:  “Lynn Township’s plans to rezone a strip of properties along Route 309 across from Northwestern Lehigh High School were opposed by the Lehigh Valley Planning Commission Thursday night. LVPC unanimously authorized its staff to send a letter to the rural northwestern Lehigh County township, urging Lynn’s supervisors to not adopt the proposed zoning change. The issue involves five properties located between Route 309 and Weiss Road at the eastern edge of the township, near the boundary with Heidelberg Township.”

There are profound, irreversable trade-offs every time local councils rezone farmland to commercial or residential use, and they effect us all.

Here in the Lehigh Valley, the iconic image of rolling hills is central to our collective identity.  Practically speaking, when we lose farmland, we also lose our ability to feed ourselves.  We become dependent on other regions of the country because food cannot be supplied locally.  Development also effects us collectively as our water and air quality deteriorate, storm water becomes more difficult to manage and traffic becomes more congested.

If you are one of the many Lehigh Valley residents that support open space preservation, this proposed zoning change is the line in the sand, the battle ground, per se, between preservation and development.

With 62 municipalities in the region, these decisions come up repeatedly to local councils throughout the region. Farmland preservation efforts die a death by a thousand cuts.

If you happen to live in Lynn Township or know someone who does, though, you can make a difference.  Now would be a good time to reach out to the local Lynn council people and tell them how you feel about the proposed zoning changes.

Farmland preservation or commercial development?  Weigh in.  Call your local council people.  Write letters.  Show up at council meetings.  Get informed.  Speak out.  Make your voice heard.

Read more from WFMZ.com at: http://www.wfmz.com/news/news-regional-lehighvalley/lehigh-valley-planning-commission-opposes-lynn-township-zoning-change/26242354

Joyce Marin

Bolsos plásticos y EnvisionLV Reto de Sostenibilidad del 2014

plastic bags imageMe encuentro en el proceso de mudarme a Lehigh Valley lo que se resume en estar empleando todo mi tiempo libre en empacar y limpiar mi casa. En los últimos años me he mudado varias veces, notando en mi vasta experiencia que cada vez que es momento de comenzar a empacar siempre enfrento el mismo problema: Demasiados bolsos plásticos acumulados en algún rincón de las gavetas o closets en la cocina. Cansada de este problema tan recurrente he decidido utilizar bolsos reusables. He buscado lugares cercanos a donde vivo en NJ donde pueda reciclar los bolsos plásticos pero lamentablemente fue una búsqueda sin resultados positivos. Entonces,  ¿qué hago con tantos bolsos? Puedo usarlos para limpiar los desechos de mi gato y para la basura pero aun así son demasiados que nunca logro agotarlos.

RenewLV comenzó el año 2014 con el EnvisionLV reto en sostenibilidad y ahora que estoy trabajando con ellos como voluntaria me siento inspirada a proponerme un reto para llevar a cabo en mi nuevo apartamento en Lehigh Valley. Mi decisión es no usar bolsos plásticos ni de papel y comprar en el mercado de agricultores locales ya que minimizan el uso de envases plásticos y Styrofoam. Con el único fin de tomar decisiones inteligentes como consumidora para así tener más espacio en mi hogar y de paso hacer una aportación positiva al medio ambiente.

Siguiendo esta línea de pensamiento, hace unos días vi en Emmaus Patch (periódico ofrecido en línea) una noticia sobre la prohibición de bolsos plásticos. Varios días después el Alcalde de Allentown, Ed Pawlowski, publicó en su cuenta de Facebook una pregunta al público sobre qué pensaban respecto a este tema.  Muchas personas han comentado que están de acuerdo y otros que no. Algunas personas temen del peligro que puedan causar los bolsos reusables ya que se publicó un artículo en donde se encontró que estos bolsos pueden obtener EColi (una bacteria peligrosa para el sistema digestivo) con el uso continuo. Sin embargo, el mismo estudio explica que si los bolsos son lavados frecuentemente las bacterias son reducidas en un 99.9%. Mientras otras personas no les gusta la idea de que les impongan la esta decisión de prohibirlos, pensando que cada persona es libre de decidir si usar bolsos plásticos o no. Algunas personas deciden reciclar o reusar bolsos plásticos para la basura. Mi manera de verlo es que el proceso de reciclaje conlleva un gasto en energía doble ya que originalmente la fabricación del bolso ya conllevó utilizar energía una vez. Una solución ideal sería reducir la producción de desperdicios plásticos para poder disminuir el impacto ambiental.

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Plastic bags and the EnvisionLV 2014 Sustainability Challenge

plastic bags image

In a week I will be moving to Lehigh Valley which means lately I have been doing a lot of packing and cleaning. Noticing that everytime there’s a move I face the same problem: a mountain of plastic bags stored in a cabinet or the kitchen closet. This has led me to decide to take the EnvisionLV 2014 Sustainability Challenge by avoiding using plastic bags from stores altogether and instead use reusable cloth bags. I have been looking for plastic bags recycle bins at grocery stores close to where I live in NJ and I haven’t found them. That leaves me guessing… What options do I have? There are only so many bags I can use to clean my cat’s litter and as trash bags but in the end it is not enough, I still always have so many extra.

Now, working as a volunteer for RenewLV I learned about the 2014 Sustainability Challenge. This has led me to take a personal challenge: after moving to PA I won’t get plastic bags from grocery stores! By avoiding the use of plastic bags and shopping regularly at farmers markets I will also alleviate the waste of plastic/Styrofoam containers generated at home which will help me support the local economy, be a smart customer and also help the environment.

Lately, Emmaus Patch has posted news about banning plastic bags. That same week the Mayor of Allentown, Ed Pawlowski, questioned on his Facebook profile what people think about banning plastic bags. The reactions were varied. A lot of people were in favor of the idea; some were not. Some people based their denial of the banning to a study that found that reusable bags could carry bacteria such as: EColi. However, the same study mentioned that the bacteria could be eliminated by a 99.9% if washed frequently. Others didn’t like the idea of banning because they don’t want to be told what to do by government. In addition, some people mentioned that they recycle and/or reuse plastic bags and that they don’t consider it necessary to ban plastic bags. While I see recycling as an option to try and mitigate environmental impact as a result of the waste we all generate, I realize it is not an absolute solution. A better one would be to reduce waste as much as possible because the recycling process used now requires a lot of energy, in addition to the energy already used to produce the bags.

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Smart Growth Book Discussion Club 6 pm Monday

Come to the Allentown Brew Works at 6:00 Monday, March 31, when we’ll begin discussing Suburban Nation: The Rise of Sprawl and the Decline of the American Dream by Andres Duany and Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk. If you’ve no time to read, please come anyway to listen and share about ways to make the Lehigh Valley more walkable, sustainable…doable!

RSVP here.

Smart Growth Book Club 5:30 this evening

Come tonight to the Veteran’s Sanctuary, 24 S. 5th Street, Allentown, to share your ideas about how we can make the Lehigh Valley more liveable and walkable for ourselves, our children, and our grandchildren. No need to read! Click here for more info and to register (optional).
Smart Growth is the best framework to contain almost every area of life:  housing, food, community, families, work, the economy, entertainment, transportation, conservation, education, art, public safety, social equity, worship, health care, fitness, even time management. During the last 69 years, we have forgotten a fact that mankind knew for millennia – that our built environment deeply affects our psyche in many ways.

Smart Growth Saves Municipal Dollars

A recent report by Smart Growth America, “Building Better Budgets,” says that, “Many municipalities have found that a smart growth approach would improve their financial bottom line. Whether by saving money on upfront infrastructure; reducing the cost of ongoing services like fire, police and ambulance; or by generating greater tax revenues in years to come, community after community has found that smart growth development would benefit their overall financial health. Many of these findings have been made publicly available.
No national survey has examined these savings as a whole until now. This report is the first to aggregate those comparisons and determine a national average of how much other communities can expect to save by using smart growth strategies.
Building Better Budgets: A National Examination of the Fiscal Benefits of Smart Growth Development surveys 17 studies that compare different development scenarios, including a brand- new study of Nashville-Davidson County, TN, commissioned specifically for this report.
The development scenarios included in our analysis are separated into two categories: “Smart growth development” is characterized by more efficient use of land; a mixture of homes, businesses and services located closer together; and better connections between streets and neighborhoods. “Conventional suburban development” is characterized by less efficient use of land with homes, schools and businesses separated and areas designed primarily for driving. While not all studies use these terms, the scenarios in each category share many of these defining traits. A detailed discussion of individual studies is included in the appendices of this report.
The report looks at the costs associated with each development strategy as well as its revenue potential. When compared to one another, we find:
1. In general, smart growth development costs one-third less for upfront infrastructure.
Our survey concluded that smart growth development saves an average of 38 percent on upfront costs for new construction of roads, sewers, water lines and other infrastructure. Many studies have concluded that this number is as high as 50 percent.
Smart growth development patterns require less infrastructure, meaning upfront capital costs, long-term operations and maintenance costs, and, presumably, cost for eventual replacement are all lower. Smart growth development also often uses existing infrastructure, lowering upfront capital costs even more.

2. Smart growth development saves an average of 10 percent on ongoing delivery of services.
Our survey concluded that smart growth development saves municipalities an average of 10 percent on police, ambulance and fire service costs.
The geographical configuration of a community and the way streets are connected significantly affect public service delivery. Smart growth patterns can reduce costs simply by reducing the distances service vehicles must drive. In some cases, the actual number of vehicles and facilities can also be reduced along with the personnel required.

3. Smart growth development generates 10 times more tax revenue per acre than conventional suburban development.
Our survey concluded that, on an average per-acre basis, smart growth development produces 10 times more tax revenue than conventional suburban development.
An opportunity for municipal leaders
Local leaders everywhere can use this information to make better fiscal decisions about development in their region.
The evidence presented in this report suggests improved strategies for land use and development can help local governments maintain and improve their fiscal solvency. As this report shows, smart growth development can reduce costs and in many cases increase tax revenue. This combination means that in some cases smart growth development can generate more revenue than it costs to operate.
These findings are true for any rural, suburban or urban community, anywhere in the country. Local governments throughout the United States are already facing unprecedented challenges in providing high-quality infrastructure and adequate public services to their residents on a tight budget. Choosing financially responsible development patterns can help communities across the country protect their fiscal health for generations to come.”

That’s a compelling argument for smart growth.

Why Should We Have a Smart Growth Book Club?

1. Some people have never heard of smart growth. What a pity it is to be unaware that we’ve been sold an inefficient way of life, and that there’s a beautiful, simpler, less expensive way to live. This book club is a vehicle to raise awareness and do our part to build a critical mass in society that will effect change that will improve air quality, our health and create stronger communities.
2. It’s a forum for smart growth devotees to network and share information. Meeting together is an enjoyable and easy way to learn. We blog face-to-face, if you will, and get to know who else is out there striving for common sense in our communities. Smart growth is about community, right?
3. Together, we may brainstorm ways to practically make the Lehigh Valley a better place to live, work, play, and worship.
4. We can make ourselves available to help one another recalibrate our own communities. For example, we may share ordinances and codes which have worked, or even attend each others’ township meetings.
5. It is hoped that this will lead to local, bi-partisan community support, and commonsense behavior. Smart growth is a broad-based cause that I believe is supported by everyone who understands it. Conservatives ought to be behind it because it aids families and the economy and saves money. Liberals should back it since it is a framework for better social parity and environmental sustainability. The need for it reaches every person’s life.
6. And of course, the book club is an excuse to better educate ourselves and thus make better choices.

To date we have held two meetings, and the conversation has been enjoyable, enlightening, and encouraging. We’re still working through James Howard Kunstler’s Home from Nowhere, an engaging book that will draw in the novice as well as give talking points to the experienced. Our December meeting “covered” only the book’s first half, so in order to do it justice, let’s discuss the second half in January. As always, if you can’t read the book, you won’t be left out in the cold; your presence is important. We hope to see you at The Allentown Brew Works at 6 pm on Tuesday, Jan. 21! Please spread the word.
If possible, sign up on Facebook, or email Joanne Guth at joguth@live.com to let me know you’re going.

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