The April 2023 public meeting started off with a project status update and overview of how we got to this point in the planning process. Attendees also asked some great questions. Information from this discussion is summarized here.
More than 50 people representing all three boroughs attended the public meeting for the Steel Valley Comprehensive Plan, held the evening of April 27 at Carnegie Library of Homestead. After an initial project overview and Q&A, attendees circulated around displays set up around the room and rated the priority and feasibility of draft recommendations. Sticky notes provided room for comments or questions on ideas. Members of the project consulting team and Steering Committee were available for one-on-one conversations about the project and the developing recommendations. All of the insight attendees shared will factor into the plan's initial draft, which will be available for public review and comment in late Spring/early Summer. Thank you to everyone who attended and provided input!
What's this project about?
A Comprehensive Plan is an officially adopted long-range policy document that lays the framework for a community's future land use, development and zoning. It’s a blueprint for what should happen during the next decade – what do people who live here want to see happen? How should that translate into budget priorities and council actions?
The boroughs of Homestead, Munhall and West Homestead received a DCED grant to support the creation of a joint Comprehensive Plan and, through a competitive process, selected Pashek+MTR as consultant to facilitate the process. This firm is known for having pioneered the "Implementable Comprehensive Plan" model, in which intensive community engagement identifies a handful of key issues that form the core of the plan. The implementable planning process focuses on building the capacity and connections to make real progress on the issues people care most deeply about.
Who is involved?
At the outset of the planning process, each borough appointed members to a Joint Steering Committee for the project. Members include elected and appointed officials as well as other community representatives. The committee has met periodically to provide direction on outreach and engagement, analyzing and interpreting input (survey results, interview findings, meeting discussions, etc.), and vetting potential paths forward for recommendations. Committee members report back to their respective Borough Councils.
Ultimately, each borough's Council may consider adopting this plan by vote following a recommendation by its Planning Commission, a public hearing and other steps of the official process (see below).
Where are we in the process?
We are in the second half of the planning process, having spent well over a year on public and stakeholder engagement in many forms. We deliberately extended the timeline for this component of the work because it is incredibly important that we reach as many people as possible.
Public and stakeholder input has included hundreds of responses to the community survey, many individual interviews, pop-up outreach at a variety of events (all three Community Day events, fish fry, Doors Open Homestead), engagement via social media and this website and discussion with civic groups. Publicity appeared in sewer bill inserts, flyered around the communities, via robocalls and email blasts, on local websites and social media pages, on paper at Rainbow Kitchen and translated into Russian for surveys distributed among that population. Now that draft visions and recommendations are taking shape, outreach and engagement are transitioning to larger community meetings.
Recommendation ideas are up for review -- check the home page for links to view and comment on each Key Issue.
The consulting team and committee are considering all of the insight received at the public meeting, and any submitted via this website. When a draft plan is ready, it will be available on this website for review and comment. Planning Commissions for all three communities will consider the draft, after which there will be a 45-day review period before Borough Councils can schedule a public hearing and consider adoption.
What's the real agenda?
The question arose whether this plan is really about merging the three local governments. The answer is no.
The Pennsylvania Municipalities Planning Code recommends that each local government update its comprehensive plan at least every 10 years. The plans for Homestead, Munhall and West Homestead are more than a decade old. Creating a relevant updated plan is a community's best bet for strategically implementing improvements and -- importantly -- securing grant funds to do so. This planning process is intended in earnest to set the boroughs up for future prosperity by thoughtfully laying out relevant, attainable and detailed action plans to address mutual goals.
Multi-municipal plans tend to be more competitive for state grants (which funded this project). They are also practical in terms of aligning efforts and addressing problems that don't respect municipal boundaries. Homestead, Munhall and West Homestead have important differences, but these places also have much in common.
Will the plan include data on demographics and housing?
Yes! The implementable plan model calls for data where it tells an important story. We will not create an encyclopedia of facts for its own sake, but the plan will include mapping and infographics as supporting context as needed, especially in the Housing and Neighborhood Stability section.
Will the plan consider infrastructure?
Yes! We are building the plan around the four Key Issues below, as we understand them to capture many of the concerns and opportunities we heard during public engagement. The key issues are intersectional, involving multiple planning topics as they relate to local conditions. Infrastructure factors into all four.
The plan will also include an "Other Issues" chapter for items we want to specifically memorialize separately, such as ideas for collaboration with the school district. If you are concerned that the Key Issues will not address something you feel is important for the boroughs to consider, please let us know -- perhaps it has a place here.
We see CONNECTIVITY as the further buildout of a multimodal transportation network to destinations within and beyond these communities. There are already fantastic walking and biking routes, but we heard about gaps, needs and opportunities that this plan can address.
STRATEGIC SERVICE PROVISION has to do with finding opportunities to enjoy the advantages of working together while preserving what’s special about each individual borough.
HOUSING AND NEIGHBORHOOD STABILITY has emerged as the most critical yet arguably most challenging key issue, as the boroughs must continue to coordinate with other agencies and private property owners to preserve and enhance the quality of place given a market over which they lack direct control.
ACCELERATING EQUITABLE GROWTH concerns intentionally channeling new investment and prosperity in ways that benefit those who already live and work in the boroughs. What can the comprehensive plan do to enable and incentivize future development to fortify the tax base and yield the greatest community benefit while preventing displacement?