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York, Pa.

York, PA Green Communities Committee Contact:
Eric Menzer, Director
Office of Economic Development
1 W. Market Street
York, Pennsylvania 17401
Tel:(717) 849-2203
Fax:(717) 849-2329

Introduction

The City of York, PA has been designated EPA Region III's first participating "Green Community". This designation is the result of a partnership with the City of York and EPA as part of EPA Region III's Community-Based Environmental Protection program called Green Communities.

The cornerstone of the Green Communities program is the on-line Green Communities Assistance Kit which aims to assist local communities in taking charge of their own environmental quality issues. As such, the Green Communities Assistance Kit serves to build capacity - getting information into the hands of those who will use it. Green Communities is also about building partnerships with local communities and community-based service providers, sharing technical assistance, information and recommendations in an effort to help communities, local governments and concerned citizens meet the increasingly complex demands of community planning and management.

The City of York, PA represents our first pilot Green Community. In partnership with York, Region III EPA will adapt and refine its Assistance Kit to better meet the needs of communities based on feedback from the City of York. Region III is providing technical assistance to further the efforts in brownfield redevelopment that are currently underway. To this end, EPA supported a Green Development workshop in York to bring innovative development tools to the City. These tools, as illustrated by the national experts convened at the workshop, are designed to integrate energy conservation, site design measures to reduce environmental impacts, stormwater management, among others, and apply them to redevelopment activities within the Rail Corridor of the City of York (see below).

Key to the City of York's participation in EPA's Green Communities program are the efforts that York has made in developing a comprehensive plan which encourages broad stakeholder involvement. The citizens of York are given the opportunity to participate in the planning and visioning process every step along the way. This effort created a level of support which has translated into numerous actions, leading York toward a more sustainable future.

Congratulations to the City of York for becoming EPA's first participating Green Community.

Background

The City of York is located in south central Pennsylvania, fifty miles north of Baltimore. It is 5.2 square miles with a population of 42,000 persons. The urbanized area has a population of approximately 160,000 and continues to grow. The City has an unemployment rate of 7.3% as compared to York County at 4.7%. Although the City has avoided a complete economic collapse, it has lost 11,000 manufacturing jobs since 1982. City tax rates are one to three times higher than the surrounding suburbs. At 19.8%, the City's poverty rate is approaching a critical level.

Last year the City of York embarked on an aggressive initiative to redevelop the City's rail corridor. The corridor is about 400 acres, 99% of which is zoned industrial or commercial. The entire corridor is a Pennsylvania State-designated Enterprise Zone and has recently been designated as a Foreign Trade Zone. With several notable exceptions, typical buildings within the corridor are large, multiple-story structures, built at the turn of the century, that are either abandoned or underutilized. The construction style and poor condition render these properties useless to modern industrial users. Most of the properties have real or perceived environmental problems. Most telling and importantly, the average assessed value per acre of land in the rail corridor is less than half of that of the City's "green field" industrial park.

The goals of the York City Rail project are ambitious: the reuse of 100 acres of rail corridor property, an additional $33 million in new assessed value and the creation of 3,000 jobs, most of which will be within walking distance for former welfare recipients. The estimated public and private investment is a minimum of $50 million over the next ten years. Through partnerships developed with the York County Industrial Development Corporation (YCIDC), the City Redevelopment Authority, Emons Transportation, private investors and the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) the City has begun to implement its strategies. Some projects have been completed and others are in various stages of the process.

The City's relationship with DEP has developed into a strong partnership. City staff meets regularly with DEP staff to discuss York projects and their direction. At the request of DEP, City and YCIDC staff has met with other communities to assist with brownfield issues and specifically the Land Recycling Program, Pennsylvania's new legislatively-created brownfields initiative. The real estate and business community is in full support of the City's efforts. Inquiries and referrals regarding rail corridor property are increasing and end users can readily be identified if suitable sites can be delivered.

A partnership with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has also started to develop. On October 14 and 15, 1997 the City of York, in partnership with EPA Region 3 and the Environmental Finance Center at the University of Maryland, hosted a charrette to explore development practices which feature innovative remediation strategies, environmentally-sound construction practices and energy-efficient design. National experts including people from the Rocky Mountain Institute spoke to local building owners, community and business leaders, architects, engineers, and economic development practitioners.

For these and other reasons, York was selected to be the first Green Community, a new program designed to assist local communities in taking charge of their own environmental quality issues.

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