Susquehanna-Chemung Action Plan -- Land Use

An Ecosystem-Based Watershed Management Plan
for the
Susquehanna and Chemung Basins of New York

Water connects us all...

Use the landscape in ways that support healthy water systems.

  • Promote land use patterns that facilitate enjoyment and sustainable use of lakes, rivers, streams, and wetlands while preserving natural watershed functions. 
  • Promote development patterns that strike a balance between preventing sprawl, minimizing floodplain development, encouraging infill development, and protecting steep slopes.


Section 3: Land Use

GIS Viewer




Steep Slopes Guidance


  • County Plans:
  • Municipal Plans.  The following plans include useful examples of provisions that support Susquehanna-Chemung Action Plan goals:
  • Susquehanna Heritage Area Management Plan Amendment:  A regional strategy for developing a New York State Heritage Area program in Broome and Tioga Counties.
  • New York State Open Space Conservation Plan:  Presents a statewide Action Agenda for achieving conservation priorities (Chapter III) and a list of specific Priority Conservation Projects (Chapter V).  Priority projects in the Susquehanna-Chemung Watershed are:
    • 53 - Susquehanna River Valley Corridor (Delaware and Otsego Counties)
    • 79 - Maumee Swamp (Herkimer County)
    • 87 - Central Leatherstocking - Mohawk Grasslands Area (Herkimer, Madison, Montgomery, Oneida, Onondaga, Otsego, and Schoharie Counties)
    • 92 - Develop a State Park in Cortland County
    • 94 - Genny Green Trail / Link Trail (Chenango, Cortland, Madison, and Onondaga Counties)
    • 103 - Two Rivers State Park (Tioga County)
    • 104 - Emerald Necklace (Tompkins County)
    • 109 - Chemung River Greenbelt (Chemung and Steuben Counties)
    • 129 - State Forest, Unique Area & Wildlife Management Area Protection (statewide)
    • 131 - Working Forest Lands (statewide)
    • 132 - State Park and State Historic Site Protection (statewide)
    • 133 - Statewide Farmland Protection
    • 134 - Long Distance Trail Corridors (including Finger Lakes Trail, Genny-Green Trail/Link Trail, and North Country National Scenic Trail)
    • 135 - Statewide Small Projects (Public Fishing Stream & River Access Projects, Waterway Access, Enhancement of Public Lands, Rare Habitats, Historic & Archaeologial Resources, Trail & Greenway Connections, Stream Buffer Easements, and Important Bird Areas)
  • Critical Environmental Areas have been designated by local agencies to draw attention to the exceptional or unique environmental character of local areas.  Although this designation does not ensure long-term protection, it increases awareness of the special attributes or resources and requires consideration of these characteristics when a proposed action is subject to SEQR review (under the State Environmental Quality Review Act).
    • Broome County:  Well Field Recharge Areas (Town of Vestal).  French Tract (Town of Vestal).
    • Cortland County:  Homer Public Water Supply Source (Town of Homer).  City Water Works (Water Board of the City of Cortland).  Groundwater Protection Overlay District (Village of McGraw).
    • Steuben County:  Valley Fill Aquifer (Town of Wayland).
  • New York State DEC State Lands Interactive Mapper: Contains Trails, DEC Land, DEM, Topographic Images, and Wildlife Management Units.
  • Environmental Navigator: The NYS Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) interactive mapping utility includes an Environmental Facilities map of DEC regulated facilities (superfund sites, active solid waste management facilities, major electric generation facilities, etc.) and a Mineral Resources map of regulated wells and mines. 

Good Resources
Rural Design Workbook:  Rethinking conventional development
This notebook is a showroom of creative design solutions for real properties that protect and preserve the rural environment, with strategies, funding sources and ideas that can make it work for you and your community.  Counties with showcased projects: Chemung, Cortland, Schuyler, Steuben, and Tioga, NY.
New York State Smart Growth Initiative
The Smart Growth Clearinghouse provides a directory of relevant state programs for each of eight Smart Growth principles:  economic development, partnerships, agriculture & farmland protection, transportation & neighborhoods, planning, conservation & environment, revitalization, and energy.
New York State Smart Growth Law
In August of 2010, New York State passed Smart Growth leglislation providing that all public infrastructure projects funded by state agencies must follow smart growth principals.
STC Better Site Design / Low Impact Development Page
Better Site Design (BSD) and low Impact Development (LID) are approaches to reducing the impacts of stormwater runoff by preserving or replicating the existing drainage conditions of a development site.  The Low Impact Development (LID) Sampler is a booklet highlighting techniques, built in the Upper Susquehanna Watershed, that increase groundwater recharge, expand greenery in urban spaces, and reduce the amount of water that becomes damaging "runoff."
State Environmental Quality Review (SEQR)
Projects or activities proposed by a state agency or unit of local government and all discretionary approvals (permits) from a NYS agency are required to perform an environmental impact assessment as prescribed by 6 NYCRR Part 617 State Environmental Quality Review (SEQR).  This process involves identifying and mitigating any significant environmental impacts.
Local Open Space Planning Guide
Handbook developed by the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation and Department of State to help interested local governments develop and implement local open space conservation programs.
Economic Benefits of Open Space Preservation
Report by the NYS Office of the State Comptroller makes a strong case for why action is needed to secure the future of our most significant undeveloped lands.
Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay
This organization promotes a variety of sustainable projects, including:  BayScapes (environmentally-sound landscapes benefiting people, wildlife, and the watershed), Builders for the Bay (encouraging site design principles that reduce the environmental effects of residential and commercial development), and River Sojourns (week-long paddling and camping trips that celebrate rich history and ecology of the rivers).  Publications Library has resources on these and other topics.
Light Imprint New Urbanism
Presents a comprehensive approach to development that aims to lie lightly on the land by coordinating sustainable engineering practices and New Urbanist design techniques, offering different solutions for different zones.
This model development code is a unified ordinance that integrates land use regulations in a manner that supports walkable, mixed-use neighborhoods and discourages sprawl development.  The SmartCode utilizes a "transect-based" approach that enables environmental and urban concerns to be administered in an integrated way.  Files can be downloaded for free and are meant to be locally customized for implementing the community's vision.
International Green Construction Code (IGCC)
Initiative of the International Code Council to develop a model code that addresses green building design and performance for new and existing commercial buildings.  It is intended to be adopted by governments and administered by code officials.
Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Building Standards
Developed by the US Green Building Council, LEED is an internationally recognized green building certification system.  This third-party verifies that a building or community was designed and built using strategies aimed at improving performance in:  energy savings, water efficiency, CO2 emissions reduction, improved indoor environmental quality, and stewardship of resources and sensitivity to their impacts
Tompkins County Model Stream Buffer Ordiance, Riparian Buffer Protection Agreement, and Stream Buffer Easement.
Tompkins County is developing model language for municipalities use for managing activities within stream and river corridors.  Links to these templates will be provided once they become available.
Village, Town and General Municipal Laws
New York State laws governing municipalities.


Sprawl Without Growth:
A 2003 land use study of upstate New York showed
a 30% increase in land development between 1982 and 1997,
but only a 2.6% growth in population during the same period.


Learn More

Additional information, references, and recommended actions may be added to these page as the plan is implemented and updated. If you would like to get involved and share resources or suggestions, please contact a member of the ad hoc Advisory Committee or STC staff, Chelsea Robertson (; 607-962-5092). Learn more about the Suquehanna-Chemung Action Plan by selecting issues from the menu on the left. Other resources include a Project Summary handout, information about Ecosystem-Based Management, and a document library with minutes and other information.


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