Cheltenham Sustainability Plan Open House Attracts Considerable Interest

Some 50 residents showed up last Thursday to take a look at the township’s participative sustainability planning efforts and offer some input on a range of possible action measures. Most people seemed engaged and impressed.

“The sustainability committee has done a very commendable job in creating goals and the action items. Community participation is really a key to seeing the plan through, and I just hope more people will come out for our future open house events and take part in helping implement the plan,” said committee member Beverly Maisey of Wyncote.

The Open House ran for three hours, allowing for ample browsing and flexible scheduling. There were 10-minute presentations on the Sustainability Plan at 6, 7 and 8 p.m. Hannah Mazzaccaro, from Glenside, a planner with the Montgomery Planning Commission (MCPC), presented a slide show that explained each of the 10 sustainability goals that the committees of volunteers hammered out over the past eight months.

She pointed out the 10 poster boards around the room, one for each goal, and the specific objectives for reaching each goal. Residents were invited to place green dots on their two priority objectives for each poster board goal. Post-it notes were available for residents to write their comments.

“The presentation was well organized and eye-catching,” offered Tom Petersen of Cheltenham, also on the committee. “I especially valued the opportunity to vote on specific projects within each of the 10 major focus areas. I encourage the committees to continue reaching out to the larger Cheltenham community. It would also be worth the effort to develop a master list – or list of lists – of contacts for as many of the residents, businesses, community groups, government agencies and other stakeholders as possible. This way, when events are planned or community input is needed, word can spread quickly.”

According to Petersen, it is critical for the community not to lose sight of the fact that “Sustainability is not just window-dressing or a nice concept, it is how we need to live to ensure the future viability of our society and the planet.”

The 10 sustainability goal categories are: community engagement; energy; mobility; waste reduction; water management; ecological stewardship; healthy living for all; local economy; sustainable development; and monitoring.

In the spring of 2011, the township decided to initiate a community-wide planning effort to create a Sustainability Plan, in response to a groundswell of interest and concern. Residents, businesses, community groups and non-profit institutions, all community stakeholders, converged to start creating a shared vision for a sustainable community, shared goals to achieve that vision, and a set of specific actions that the community can take to meet those goals. The township retained the MCPC to consult in the process and help create the plan.

Last May a group of 45 citizens, elected and appointed Township officials and staff, and representatives of major Cheltenham institutions, including the School District, Arcadia University, and Einstein Hospital, were selected to represent the community on the Sustainable Cheltenham General Committee. The committee created a draft set of goals that provided the framework for the process. A steering committee of about half the size of the full group coordinates the effort.

The Township is expected to have a completed plan ready for initiating implementation by the fall of 2012.