Community engagement is a critical component of the proposed multi-municipal comprehensive planning process. Understanding perceptions of the social, economic and natural environment, and receiving input from existing residents of the Northern Lehigh region is vital in creating a holistic plan. The data and analyses outlined in this document serve to support and verify the observations, opinions and concerns of the community. Synthesizing the data analyses and community-identified issues will result in logical goals that shape the policies and intended actions.
Meetings with local stakeholders were initially held during the beginning steps of planning process and will continue through the publication of the revised Multi-Municipal Comprehensive Plan. Residents, business owners and officials all hold a stake in the area, and the community engagement efforts have been directed at obtaining input from all aspects of the community. Priorities identified during those meetings were then consolidated by topic and circulated through an online survey to gain additional input before creating the Draft Goals.
The Northern Lehigh Steering Committee developed a list of community experts to attend one of three identical meetings. These meetings, referred to as “charrettes”, were designed to present contemporary issues within the region, create dialogue for attendees and document the opinions of those attendees. Attendees included residents, business owners, farmers, emergency service personnel, municipal officials, municipal and county representatives, among others. A total of 65 people attended the three meetings, which were held:
• Wednesday, June 12, 2019 - 6:30 pm at Heidelberg Township building
• Thursday, June 13, 2019 - 8:00 am at Washington Township building
• Monday, June 17, 2019 - 6:30 pm at Weisenberg Township building
The sessions began with a brief presentation about the multi-municipal planning process and included current subdivision and land development data, demographics, as well as transportation data specific to the Northern Lehigh area. The purpose of this exercise was to inform attendees on the strengths of regional planning and provide context to the land development and transportation characteristics of Northern Lehigh communities.
Following the presentation, the Lehigh Valley Planning Commission facilitated an hour-long group discussion by asking the stakeholders a series of questions on topics designed to spur open and active discussion. Through this process, all stakeholders were engaged in the dialogue and provided insight on community concerns, which will help inform the direction of the multi-municipal plan. At the end of the hour, each group was asked to select its top five priorities and present them to the larger group. Each attendee was provided three votes to select their priorities from the combined list.
Topics identified during the charrettes were then organized and consolidated into similar categories. Eleven overarching issues were presented:
1. Preservation and the enhancement of community character
2. Recreation and the importance of maintaining and potentially expanding the trail network
3. Open space and preservation of lands
4. Farms and agricultural as both a concern for maintaining the heritage of the region, while also promoting farming as a business and agritourism
5. Land use planning for encouraging a balance of development and preservation
6. Community facilities, including recreation options, municipal government and infrastructure management
7. Emergency services with a deep concern for dwindling rates of volunteerism
8. Natural environment and the protection of the environment, as well as scenic values
9. Revitalization of downtown Slatington Borough and supporting surrounding portions of Washington Township
10. Education and quality of school services
11. Municipal finances and taxing to promote efficient governance and provide for sustainable revenue for municipalities
Community Priorities Survey
The refined list of priorities provided the basis for an online survey (SurveyMonkey) that was created for the Northern Lehigh area governing body representatives and charrette invitees. The purpose of the survey was to narrow the list of priorities and identify any additional priorities that were not considered during the charrettes. Respondents were asked to rank each of the eleven issues in order of priority.
During the comment period, 45 people completed the survey. The top eleven issues from the survey responses are listed in order of identified priority. No additional priorities were identified as part of the survey.
Night in the Country
Following the charrette and online survey analysis, a public outreach program was targeted to a larger audience during the “Night in the Country” event held on August 17, 2019. Night in the Country is a community fair hosted by the Northwestern Recreation Commission held at the Northwestern Recreation fields.
The multi-municipal planning team hosted a public engagement “pop-up” display where facilitators would guide attendees to posters that provided a series of five engagement questions designed to further gain understanding of the Northern Lehigh area. The attendees were provided three stickers each to vote for their greatest concerns for each of the five questions. The following questions were presented with tallied responses:
Based on the outreach effort and a review of the current multi-municipal comprehensive plan, a series of seven draft goals were developed. The goals are derived from the priorities identified from the charrettes, public survey and public outreach event. These draft goals assist in summarizing the concerns of the community and provide further direction for the Northern Lehigh Multi-Municipal Comprehensive Plan.
Draft goals include several important topics that the plan will address including land use, housing, air and water quality, transportation, development, recreational facilities, conservation of natural and scenic resources, and preservation of farmland.
1. Protect farmlands and promote local farming as a business
2. Balance preservation and development to maintain and enhance the quality of life
3. Support recreational opportunities and enhance natural assets such as existing trails, open space and scenic landscapes
4. Preserve the historical and cultural heritage of the Northern Lehigh region
5. Manage growth through sustainable transportation and infrastructure investments consistent with existing land use patterns
6. Strengthen municipal cooperation by promoting unified policy and planning actions
7. Promote efficiencies that enhance the education system and emergency services
These draft goals are grounded in the concerns of the community and will determine the policies and actions that shape the plan, supported by the analyses presented in the Issues and Opportunities Report.
Northern Lehigh provides a unique quality of life rooted in its history and landscape. The region also has a unique opportunity to collectively address concerns of maintaining its character while focusing growth on sustainable principles through investment into an existing downtown. As the area’s population grows, new challenges will arise in balancing development and open space preservation, while also maintaining and updating aging infrastructure and diversifying the housing stock to ensure attainability for all Northern Lehigh residents.
The Northern Lehigh Multi-Municipal Comprehensive Plan will confront these and many other issues, thoughts and concerns of the community. The draft goals will help guide critical decision-making as the planning process continues through 2020, laying out a vision for the area that is balanced, resilient, strong and prepared.