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By Lacey Gardner

Town of Willing Recognized for their First Comprehensive Plan

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The Allegany County Office of Planning plays key role

From Allegany County, pictured are Michelle Denhoff, Deputy Director of Planning and Mandi Joyce-Phelps, Planner, accepting the award in Buffalo

Belmont, NY – On Wednesday, the Town of Willing Planning Board and Allegany County Office of Planning, were recognized for outstanding achievement in comprehensive planning by the Western NY Chapter of the American Planning Association.  Members of the Allegany County Office of Planning were on hand to accept the Outstanding Planning Award, Comprehensive Plan Honorable Mention, an award honoring a comprehensive or general plan that advances the science and art of planning.

Preserving the Town of Willing’s unique rural character and natural environment were central to the comprehensive planning process, from which emerged focus areas that included agriculture, outdoor recreation, and dark skies tourism.  Members of the Planning Board, informed by input from community survey responses, ensured that the final comprehensive plan product protected and preserved the “small-town feel” and sense of community that is enjoyed in the Town of Willing.  

Unique challenges faced the Town of Willing during the planning process, including making sure all community voices were heard, in particular those of the growing Amish community there, as well as the absence of a Main Street or downtown area, where economic development and placemaking efforts are so often concentrated.  But despite the challenges, and thanks to the collaborative efforts of all those involved, the special character of Willing’s rural community was well-captured in the resulting plan; the cherry on top was recognition for this plan and the incredible amount of effort that went into achieving the final product.

Willing Planning Board members involved in the process were Patricia Gay, Craig Martin, Eric Smith, Steve Antes, Kyle Christopher, Dale Beebee, Ashley Cline and Mike Dunaway. Current Planning Board members are Christine Jefferds, Patricia Gay, Tyler Barney and Heather Stoll. The Town of Willing Planning Board was assisted by Mandi Joyce-Phelps, Michelle Denhoff and Kier Dirlam in the Allegany County Office of Planning.

Phelps said “We all put a lot of effort into this. The Town and County are both very proud of the outcome and it’s very exciting to know that those efforts are recognized by a regional association. Typically, municipalities that submit for award recognition are much larger in size and often have assistance from paid consultants.”

The Office of Planning offers services to interested municipalities in Allegany County and is currently working with Wellsville, Hume and Belfast to complete renditions of their comprehensive plans.

None of Allegany County’s municipalities have paid planning staff, and often don’t have the resources to pay professional consultants for their work. Efforts in land use are often done with volunteers who spend endless hours doing outreach to their fellow residents, researching, and planning for their community’s future – and they do much more than putting it on paper.

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