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Onondaga County Legislature target planning and economic development for 2017

Ellen Abbott
Onondaga County Legislature Chairman Ryan McMahon says lawmakers will take on the issue of planning and economic development this year. A group will be formed to review the work that’s already been done on the issue.";

One of the goals of the Onondaga County Legislature in 2017 will be updating of the county’s comprehensive plan that guides planning and economic development. Legislature Chairman Ryan McMahon will be appointing a special committee that will look through all the comprehensive development plans that have been drafted by various groups and governments in recent years across central New York. McMahon says the idea is to review these plans and the options they present, then move on legislation to deal with future development.

"We want to look at different ways to pass regulatory relief on businesses going through the planning process," McMahon said. "And when you look at the bigger concepts of planning, make sure the planning for economic growth and economic development actually accomplishes those goals.”

One of the issues with planning in Onondaga County for years has been suburban sprawl. According to a 2012 county sustainable development draft document, even though the county population has remained flat, 150 subdivisions were added between 2002 and 2012. County planner Megan Costa says that eats up a lot of raw land, especially farmland.

"Farmland conversion since 1980 totals about 30,000 acres of converted farmland, averaging about 8,000 acres per decade," Costa said. 

All that growth in those rural areas forces the county and municipalities to construct and maintain more infrastructure, including roads, water and sewer systems, to serve basically the same amount of people. That 2012 plan ultimately suggested that development be driven towards the city of Syracuse and inner suburbs, which already have roads and water systems in place. McMahon says that emphasis is what has kept the 2012 plan on the shelf.

"What we aren’t going to do is to tell people and prohibit people from deciding where they want to live and where they want to open up a business and whatnot," McMahon said. "Each municipality has to compete for growth.”

McMahon says the special committee will be appointed later this month.

Payne Horning is a reporter and producer, primarily focusing on the city of Oswego and Oswego County. He has a passion for covering local politics and how it impacts the lives of everyday citizens. Originally from Iowa, Horning moved to Muncie, Indiana to study journalism, telecommunications and political science at Ball State University. While there, he worked as a reporter and substitute host at Indiana Public Radio. He also covered the 2015 session of the Indiana General Assembly for the statewide Indiana Public Broadcasting network.