Serving as manager of Cranberry Township since 1991, Jerry Andree has been instrumental in working with the community to develop and realize a more sustainable vision for Cranberry. Andree’s ethic of engagement at the local level is evident in his casual meetings with residents over coffee, “spilling the beans on what’s new in Cranberry”, and a Township blog he authors, which shares his reflections on issues important to residents and businesses. Under his tenure, Cranberry achieved Platinum through the Sustainable PA Community Certification.
– What is a trend driving the uptake of sustainable development policies and practices that all municipalities should be watching? (In other words, what are some big picture trends in sustainability that you see local government responding and tapping into, either locally or beyond southwestern PA?)
The face of retail has been changing for some time, and we are starting to see that impact in Cranberry Township. Cranberry is known for having a strong retail sector, and while that industry continues to grow and thrive here, it looks a little different than it used to. We’re not seeing development that is strictly retail-driven anymore. Retail that is proposed now is one of several uses within the development, with the retail section of the development not serving as the anchor use. New development typically includes retail, restaurants, office, or entertainment uses to help strengthen that retail use. It is a much more sustainable mix of land uses.
People want to walk places. New commercial development here is now connected. Residents can walk from their homes to shops and restaurants; residents can walk or ride their bikes to work. Workers can get out on their breaks and walk to grab lunch or pick up a few things at the store. Developers know this and work with us to incorporate these concepts into their master planning. Our residents want these amenities in their community. Of course, we need to increase our connections in and to older commercial development, but the new trend is encouraging and exciting for us.
– Please share one or two examples of how Cranberry Township is advancing the principles of sustainability that some might find surprising.
Our large-scale sustainability projects, such as our traffic management system, our treatment plant upgrade, and our Collection Connection solid waste and recycling program get a lot of attention and are, of course, impactful, but we are seeing a lot of success with our small-scale efforts. We’ve done a lot with public education, encouraging our residents to be sustainable at home. We look at what we do operationally as a pilot and model for our residents.
Two years ago, we started an employee composting program in our Administration offices. Every week, we divert roughly 40 pounds of material from the waste stream through that program, simply by composting lunch scraps, coffee grounds and filters, and tea bags. We started using compostable, wooden coffee stirrers instead of plastic. The composted material is used right outside in the Municipal Building in a community garden.
The composting program gave us some momentum to try other things. We’ve had zero waste events and meetings, and hosting more of these at a larger scale has become a goal for us. We’ve added a plastic bag recycling bin for employees, as well as battery recycling and ink cartridge recycling.
That small composting can in our office kitchen has inspired us to move forward, look at other ways of reducing our waste, and provide more options for our employees. Forty pounds of material a week over a series of weeks adds up to a large impact.
We are using these lessons from our operations to better educate residents on what they can do in their own homes and places of business, and we are exploring other services we can offer our residents, workers, and visitors.
– In what ways are local governments partnering with the business sector to develop local economies that are more aligned with the principles of sustainable development?
Ensuring that all roads become multimodal corridors is a key sustainable development practice that Cranberry has adopted. Through the planning process, residents consistently tell us that access to shops, restaurants, and offices by foot is important. As such, pedestrian connectivity and accessibility is a top priority for us. We work very closely with developers on pedestrian connectivity through the construction of sidewalks and/or trails on all new development. The Township’s ordinances require that construction and redevelopment projects build sidewalks to expand the pedestrian network.
We help developers trouble-shoot challenges they may have in placing or constructing these connections. We ensure the connections are in-line with our planning efforts and vision for the community. While our ordinances specify that sidewalks must be constructed, we recognize that some sites require flexibility and out of the box thinking. The Township works creatively with developers — we’ve gone so far as to design solutions for developers who struggle with topographical challenges, land use limitations, or materiality concerns.
Making new development pedestrian friendly is low-hanging fruit. We also reach out to existing businesses owners and work with them to make their sites better connected, especially where those sites may be the sole missing link in an extended network. We’ve received very positive responses from both residents and businesses. It is not without effort for both us and the business, but the results are very rewarding and well-received by the community. There are often concerns about the details associated with these projects, such as timeline, construction activity impeding day to day operations, and maintenance responsibilities. However, many businesses recognize that collaborating with the Township to strategically implement targeted pedestrian projects benefits themselves and the greater community in the long run, particularly should their building need to expand in the future. Both strategies allow us to achieve the goal of connecting people to places. In turn, that increases foot traffic for businesses, provides opportunities for active transportation, and improves air quality throughout the community.