Michael J. Bourcy , Director
175 Arsenal Street
Watertown, New York 13601
Phone: (315) 785-3144
Fax: (315) 785-5092
The Department serves as technical staff to the County and its municipalities primarily in four major program categories:
In support of a multitude of specific County programs, staff provides project development and administration, grant writing, and research and analysis services. Specific program areas include: Community Development Block Grants, North Country HOME Consortium, County Planning Board administration, Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy (CEDS) Committee, Geographic Information System (GIS) Services, Fort Drum-related growth and development technical services, Agriculture and Farmland Protection Board administration, and DemographicCensus services. Many other County-wide project and program areas are also administered.
Also, the Department provides local government technical assistance to various town and village boards in the development and implementation of comprehensive plans, land use regulations, and community and economic development plans and strategies.
These services are intended to assist and guide efforts at both the County and local levels, to develop and implement planning and development programs which will have positive impacts on the area's economy, environment, rural character and land uses.
Community Development Block Grant Program (CDBG)
The Department manages the County's CDBG program. Staff undertakes program planning, application development, and Federal and State administration and reporting requirements for various CDBG funded programs. Over $15 million has been received through the Department's involvement with the program. Seven consecutive awards (2007-2013) totaling $4.4 million from the NYS Office for Community Renewal has established County government's first housing rehabilitation assistance program for eligible homeowners. In addition, over $1 million was received during 2005 and 2006 to create the County's first-time homebuyer program. The County partners with local non-profit housing providers in the administration of these programs. Both of the housing programs were initiated to help address community housing needs in response to growth pressures resulting from the expansion of Fort Drum and the needs of residents across the County.
Previous awards include a $750,000 award for training costs associated with Stream, Inc., a local customer relationship call center in Watertown, and $600,000 for rehabilitation of the North Country Children's Center health clinic in downtown Watertown. Several other economic development awards have also been secured that are supporting microenterprise and industrial development revolving loan funds in the community.
The three county (Jefferson, St. Lawrence, Lewis) North Country HOME Consortium continues to operate under authorization established by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The Department of Planning has an administrative role in support of Jefferson County's status as the lead county. Since its inception in 1994, the Consortium has distributed over $26.7 million in local housing assistance to local not-for-profit housing providers. This has resulted in the purchase and/or rehabilitation of over 1,775 units in the three county area. The Consortium is currently authorized for the period 2015 through 2017 which enables local municipalities and non-profit housing providers to apply for housing assistance funds in over 100 communities in the region. In 2014, the Consortium will distribute nearly $750,000 in new awards to seven housing providers.
County Planning Board
The Department provides staff assistance on a monthly basis in support of the County Planning Board's authorized functions. In addition to monthly meeting administration, most of the Department's assistance is dedicated to NYS General Municipal Law, section 239-m project reviews for development projects and local zoning actions referred by municipalities.
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Fort Drum Growth Management Assistance
The Department is active in a number of technical assistance projects related to land use and encroachment management, housing, and force structure initiatives occurring at Fort Drum. The Fort Drum Regional Liaison Organization (FDRLO) sponsored a Growth Management Project with the assistance of the Department and other local agencies to inventory, analyze and model tri-county growth impacts resulting from the addition of brigade elements and soldiers at Fort Drum. The Department also assisted development of a Fort Drum Region Transit Needs Assessment. Additional information on these project are available at www.fdrlo.org . Other sample tasks under this category include maintenance of a Housing Construction database, production of GIS maps related to Fort Drum growth impact, and coordination with Federal and State interests on growth impact issues.
Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy (CEDS) Committee
The Department provides staff assistance to the CEDS Committee, which develops and maintains the Jefferson County CEDS Plan for use by various agencies in their economic development programs. The Committee's work includes partnerships with the Jefferson County Industrial Development Agency (JCIDA), and other local economic development interests to identify and promote local economic development strategies. The Department also coordinates with the Federal Economic Development Administration (EDA) on behalf of the CEDS Committee to profile and endorse local capital projects that might be eligible for funding assistance.
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As resources permit, the Department provides staff assistance to Jefferson County communities in support of their land use, comprehensive planning, and community development projects.
The Department has recently provided assistance to the Villages of Dexter, Clayton, Cape Vincent and Philadelphia and the towns of Alexandria, LeRay, Hounsfield, Orleans and Philadelphia. The office also coordinates several training opportunities each year for local municipal planning officials. Recent topics have included: Community Design Guidelines, ZBA Basics, Site Plan and Subdivision Basics, Revising Zoning and Real Estate Transaction Procedures.
Development Site Research and Analysis
The Department often coordinates with local and state development organizations to aid with research and assessment of potential development sites. The Department utilizes maps and GIS resources to help identify sites meeting specific criteria such as conditions related to utilities, location/zoning characteristics and natural resource features as requested by development prospects.
Resource and Environmental Management
The Department manages administration of the County Agriculture Districts Program, which includes over 190,000 acres of land in three separate Districts in the County. These Districts offer a number of benefits to agricultural landowners to encourage continued agriculture production and activities. Under NYS Department of Agriculture and Markets guidelines, the Department is responsible for undertaking periodic comprehensive reviews of the viability of each District. In addition, local landowners have a 30 day period during the month of June each year to request addition of viable agricultural property to any of the County's three consolidated Districts.
Through administrative support to the County's Agricultural and Farmland Protection Board, the Department also assists with maintenance and implementation of the County's Agriculture and Farmland Protection Plan. It is anticipated an update to this plan will commence in 2014. Most recently, the Department has worked in concert with the American Farmland Trust, the County Agriculture Coordinator, and others to implement a Purchase of Development Rights program that will utilize voluntary agriculture conservation easements to protect important agricultural lands from non-farm conversion.
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Septic System Replacement Program
Jefferson County is participating in the NYS Septic System Replacement Program. The purpose of this fund is to replace existing cesspools and septic systems that are having significant and quantifiable environmental and/or public health impacts to groundwater used for drinking water, or a threatened or impaired waterbody.
NYS identified Priority Geographic Areas for the program. In Jefferson County the Priority Areas are Moon Lake, Red Lake, and the Indian River near these lakes.
More detailed information is provided below.
Snowmobile Grant-In-Aid Program
The Department works with snowmobile clubs and administers this NYS grant pass-through program on behalf of the County. The 2013-2014 grant will be the 23rd consecutive year that the County has participated in the program to enable access to trail maintenance and grooming funds.
Information, Demographic and Data Services
Geographic Information Systems (GIS) Management and Implementation
Staff offers GIS services to the County through two major software platforms. First, the Department developed and oversees the County's online, web-based map and parcel viewer which can be found at www.jeffcountymaps.com . The system operates on ArcGIS Server platform. Numerous data layers are can be viewed including aerial imagery, Agriculture District coverage, and existing land uses. The system is integrated with the County's Real Property parcel database. Secondly, the office maintains an ArcMap GIS desktop platform in support of the digital map products required for Department programs, projects, and local community assistance.
The Planning Department's GIS staff provides a wide variety of mapping and data services to the County. The Department collects, develops, and maintains digital spatial data pertaining to the County, and presents that data to Jefferson County's municipalities, government offices, citizenry, and New York State. Common projects for municipalities include mapping zoning, comprehensive plans, school districts, economic development projects, land use, and aerial imagery. County projects include mapping housing and demographic trends, tracking and presenting New York Certified Agricultural Districts, land use mapping, flood area mapping, natural resource mapping, snowmobile trails mapping, service locator mapping, infrastructure mapping, and Census support effort. Special projects include election district and polling place mapping at the direction of the Board of Elections, maps related to planning efforts in the Fort Drum vicinity, and tourism mapping. The office also posts maps for general use or interest on the Planning Department's Resource maps page.
U. S. Census
The Department leads County efforts in analysis and tabulation of U.S. Census data. The Office coordinated County and local participation in the Local Update of Census Addresses (LUCA) to improve the Census Bureau's database of addresses throughout the County and on Fort Drum. The office also participates in the Boundary and Annexation Survey (BAS) to suggest any changes in municipal boundaries.
General Technical Assistance
Each year, staff responds to hundreds of technical assistance and informational inquiries from the general public, local businesses, the development community, and other governmental agencies. These requests typically cover a broad range of topics, such as Census information, environmental and development requirements, economic demographics, and grant opportunities.