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Blair planners receive award

ERIE — The Blair County Planning Com­mission recently received a statewide award for comprehensive planning from the Pennsylvania Chapter of the American Planning Association during its annual conference in Erie.

This is the first time Blair County has received the award.

The planning commission collaborated with the five other counties in the Southern Alleghenies region to create a plan titled Alleghenies Ahead: Shared Strategies for a Stronger Region.

The plan for Blair County has five priorities developed by a steering committee comprised of more than 30 local stakeholders: public health, broadband and wireless service, agriculture, housing and blight, and municipal coordination and collaboration. The plan places a heavy emphasis on implementation, with each priority containing a specific action plan.

Several action items in the plan are already underway, including the activation of a regionwide broadband task force through Southern Alleghenies Planning & Development Commission.

“This is an honor bestowed upon everyone who has had a part in developing this plan,” said David McFarland, director of Blair Planning in a statement. “The plan publicly recognizes we must make some course changes and be more proactive in capitalizing on the assets the region has to offer, both now and in the future.”

Six counties collaborating on a comprehensive plan had never been attempted before in Pennsylvania.

“This is the very first time 18 county commissioners, six county planning commissions and one regional economic development agency have joined forces to complete such an initiative. When you remove the arbitrary boundaries that exist between our counties, you quickly realize how similar our collective assets and challenges really are. 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, said Katie Kinka, senior planner for the Cambria County Planning Commission in a statement.

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