Comprehensive planning enters second phase

You may have seen them last summer at the farmers markets, or the car show, or community day. Or maybe at the Blue Devils homecoming game, or at Trunks, Tents and Treats this fall. Or you scanned the QR code on the poster and were directed to take the online survey. Whichever way you heard that Mt. Lebanon was asking for input on its new comprehensive plan, the municipality definitely heard your voice.

A comprehensive plan is a document Pennsylvania communities are required to compile every 10 years as a key to mapping out development for the upcoming decade. The last time the municipality went through this process, in 2013, the total number of stakeholders’ comments was 310. Comments collected by Pashek, the planning firm conducting this year’s comprehensive planning process, are more than 10 times that number.

“We have well over 3,000 points of input in this process, and we’re still very early in the first phase of a three-phase process,” said Assistant Manager/Planner Ian McMeans, who is leading the project.

That first phase, called the “explore” phase, concluded in November. Next up is the “test” phase, says Pashek’s Elaine Kramer, followed by the “build” phase.

“The test phase is where we ask, ‘Have we gotten it right? Have we heard from a wide variety of people?’ In the build phase, we become very solutions-oriented and begin to devise recommendations,” she said.

The build phase is scheduled to take place in February and March, at which time Pashek will submit a halfway-point report to the Commission.

One section of Pashek’s online survey asked respondents to pinpoint locations on an interactive map and offer suggestions in one of six categories. Of the 830 suggestions, 277 were to improve walking routes, and another 81 were about improving bike routes, accounting for a total of 43 percent of responses. Next in frequency was development and redevelopment, accounting for another 37 percent.

This jibes with respondents’ answers to the survey question “Which of these issues should be a high priority for Mt. Lebanon to address over the next 10 years?” The top four vote-getters, all of which garnered more than 30 percent of the responses, were recreation and park facilities, safe streets, strengthening local business districts and taxes/cost of services.

In comparison with the 2013 plan, survey takers were asked to choose from a list of factors that influenced their decision to live in Mt. Lebanon. This year’s survey asked the same question, with the same factors.

In both surveys, quality of schools was the No. 1 answer. This year’s second factor, a family-friendly environment, did not even make the list in 2013. That year, the second-most reason for living here was the low crime rate, which this year ranked fourth. Overall quality of life, No. 5 in 2013, ranked third this year, while “easy to walk/bike” took the fifth spot in this year’s list and was not included in 2013’s top five.

Following Pashek’s halfway-point review, look for more opportunities to offer input to shape the plan, which is on schedule for a final public event and celebration in October, when the plan is expected to be 90 percent completed. Commissioners will vote on adopting the plan in December.