commissioner’s column: John Bendel

In my last article for mtl magazine in May, I provided a preview of the municipality’s new comprehensive plan and at that time asked for your ideas, vision and energy to create a blueprint for our town’s future that will help it thrive. Well, a lot has happened since May, and because this plan is so important—it’ll help set our priorities for the next 10 years—I thought an update on our progress was an appropriate focus for this article.

In late spring, under the able guidance of Keith McGill, Mt. Lebanon’s municipal planner, the Commission organized our planning team, selected a planning consultant (Environmental Planning and Design Pittsburgh), formed several committees, and began implementing a community engagement process designed to gather as much input as possible from our residents.

The working title of our comprehensive plan is Elevate: Looking Beyond Today’s Horizon and is symbolized by a hot air balloon that you may have seen on our website or around town at community events like First Fridays, Saturday Farmers Market, the Fourth of July celebration or the Plein Air art festival. This summer, the planning team focused on listening to you. Many residents answered our call for involvement by responding to an online survey, participating in meetings at one of our local coffee shops or providing pictures via a photo safari, where residents provided photos of things they love or would like to change about Mt. Lebanon. From the outset of the process, the Commission understood that to achieve our goal to create a meaningful, action-oriented plan that addresses the opportunities and challenges facing our community, planning must be as inclusive as possible and could not be done in a vacuum.

The input gleaned from residents has been terrific so far and it’s exciting to see great ideas bubbling up. For example, maybe you are one of our residents who has suggested that we enhance our community’s “walkability,” which means we should focus our attention on making Mt. Lebanon a more pedestrian- (and I would add bicycle-) friendly community. By making it safer and more conducive to walk and bike Mt. Lebanon’s neighborhoods, we’ll improve our quality of life and accentuate one of the characteristics that sets us apart from other suburban communities. This point is illustrated at each Lebo vs. Upper St. Clair basketball game, where you’ll hear good natured taunts between the student sections. It usually starts with USC students chanting “We have buses,” which is quickly met with the Lebo students’ response, “We have sidewalks!” It’s all in fun, and is certainly a matter of preference, but I’ll take the sidewalks any day.

We’ve heard numerous suggestions and ideas including expanding our environmental “greening” initiatives, preserving our neighborhoods and homes and developing a strategy to attract new shops/restaurants/businesses to our commercial districts. And while we’ve heard from many residents, we’d like to make sure that all voices are included. There is still time for you to provide input. At your convenience, you can provide comments on

Beginning this fall and continuing through the winter the planning process is shifting from pure information gathering to prioritizing ideas, goal-setting, and creating strategies and tactics to accomplish our goals. The first opportunity to hear the emerging themes and preliminary priorities from the planning team was during a Thursday Night Live event October 11, 2012 at the municipal building. There, the planning team presented high level priorities and residents were encouraged to add their perspectives on the priorities presented as well as share new ideas.

Our planning team is now refining the strategies and goals and a draft plan will be ready in early 2013, and public hearings are being organized. The completion of our Comprehensive Plan is expected by mid-2013. Keep looking for announcements regarding the public hearings and updates on the municipality’s website,, LeboALERTs, Facebook and Twitter, and in future issues of mtl magazine.