By Jocelyn Brumbaugh | Original Article
Oct. 16, 2018

The Cambria County Planning Commission accepted the Pennsylvania Chapter of the American Planning Association’s statewide award for comprehensive planning during an annual conference Monday in Erie. 

Cambria County’s planning commission collaborated with five other counties – Bedford, Blair, Fulton, Huntingdon and Somerset – to create a plan called “Alleghenies Ahead: Shared Strategies for a Stronger Region.” 

Members of the Cambria County Planning Commission (from left) Katie Kinka, senior planner; Ethan Imhoff, executive director; and Shana Murphy Sosko, community development planner, pose with Cambria County Commissioner Tom Chernisky on Monday, Oct. 15 in Erie.

 

The plan for Cambria County included six priorities developed with input from more than 30 stakeholders, including transportation, broadband and cell service, recreation, housing and blight, municipal coordination and collaboration and business and workforce development. 

The plan focuses on implementation of these priorities, with a specific action plan included for each, several of which are already underway. 

According to a press release from Ethan Imhoff, executive director of the county’s planning commission, the award “reflects the commitment, determination and honesty with which the county commissioners, planning commission, and steering committee members approached the planning process.” 

“The plan publicly recognizes we must become less risk averse and more aggressive in order to capitalize on the assets Cambria County has to offer, both now and in the future,” he said. 

Imhoff said collaborating with other counties on a comprehensive plan had never been attempted before in Pennsylvania. The benefits of working together included the development of issue-based networks, an enhanced resource base to confront shared priorities and significant cost savings to each county.

Some of the plan’s suggestions are underway, including the activation of a region-wide broadband task force through Southern Alleghenies Planning and Development Commission; a strategy to develop market rate housing in downtown Johnstown by the Cambria County Planning Commission; and the adoption of Act 89 to repair structurally deficient county-owned bridges by the Cambria County’s commissioners. 

Project Manager Katie Kinka, senior planner for the Cambria County Planning Commission, said it was an effort that involved 18 county commissioners, six county planning commissions and one regional economic development agency to complete. 

“When you remove the arbitrary boundaries that exist between our counties, you quickly realize how similar our collective assets and challenges really are,” Kinka said. “And you also realize the greater opportunities and advantages of working together to implement projects of regional scale and impact. We’ve certainly set a precedent by collaborating, and plan to continue to work productively as a region moving forward.”

The Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development awarded the six counties a grant from the Municipal Assistance Program that funded half of the $364,000 cost of the plan, while the six counties contributed the other half. Together, the six counties worked with consultant CZB of Alexandria, Virginia, to help develop the plan.

To learn more about Alleghenies Ahead, visit www.allegheniesahead.com. The action plan for Cambria County begins on page 82.