What does Borough Council do?
The elected borough council acts primarily as a legislative body. They may also act in an administrative, executive or supervisory role to a lesser extent.
Greenville has been working very hard over the past decade to make right what had been undone within our community. As a council member, I hope to inspire and support not just the Dreamers in Greenville who see the true potential, but also the Doers who are willing to do the hard work necessary to seeing great things continue to happen in our little town.
As council president, I have learned that by staying the course, regardless of what is thrown our way, we will succeed. Greenville will not look or be the same, but remembering our history, we can make Greenville even better than before going forward.
I don't believe we need to reinvent the wheel. It is important that we continue to look to other communities and learn from them what works and how they manage to pull together resources.
I believe we should play off of, and invest in, our strengths: Natural Resources & Recreation, Low Cost of Living, Slow & Relaxed Pace, Close Proximity to City Hubs, Cultural Assets.
I believe we should be investing in our future. Sometimes it is great not to go mainstream, however, I believe there some ways in which Greenville has fallen far behind the rest. We should be looking for ways to increase our appeal through access to technology, revitalized infrastructure and an educated/excited workforce.
I believe we should stand apart as a community that cares for each other. We already excel at this in many ways, but I think it is something we need to continue to push for. Our community is stronger when we make considerable efforts in how we relate with each other as neighbors, strengthen old relationships and foster new ones. The council should be an advocate for, and encourage, building a stronger community.
I believe that our institutions can do more as partners. I strongly feel that larger organizations, companies and institutions that operate within the borough can accomplish amazing things when working towards a tangible goal and a shared vision. We have the opportunity to propose these tangible goals and cast a great vision for our community. The communication, action and synergy between these organizations and institutions can inspire and lead a whole community towards growth.
A little story... STORM WATER MANAGEMENT ACT 167 of 1978 birthed a Storm Water plan for Mercer County that was adopted by municipalities in the 80's. This act was never enforced by the DEP. With a plan finished, and a model ordinance to be passed by municipalities, grants were to be appropriated. No funding was given to accomplish the requirements and management ordinances. Therefore, Storm Water was pushed aside - and eventually forgotten. We were then left to react after parts of Bracken Alley collapsed in 2014.
I believe the biggest proponent to time wasted and un-productivity is a lack of vision or understanding. I believe that the borough needs to focus on the "why" before they can decided on a what, when, where and how.
I also believe that we can greatly improve the borough's productivity by clearly defining roles. This is something that I firmly believe is missing.
When the largest parts of a budget are it's human resources, performance and productivity should be quantifiable and exceed expectations.
Any effective body whether it is a company, organization or council needs to be able to answer the question, "why?" Why are we here? The answer to such a simple question can give profound insight. If the answer is not - To serve our community, to strengthen our community, to better our community, to empower our residents to succeed - then there is a major problem.
With a unified understanding of "why" the council can consistently measure ever decision against the answer.
Imagine what you would see coming from a council that measured every decision off of a clear mission statement like the one above.
A visual representation of the vision. Click on the different segments to gather some visual inspiration - then read more about each segment below.
A, B & C. Commercial and Retail Development along our Main Street
Our Main Street Commercial and Retail Zone can be further broken up into 3 segments:
Each of these segments have their unique strengths and face different challenges. It is important to segment this main thoroughfare in order to address each with a tailored solution. Divide and conquer.
A.) West End Development: The infrastructure is lacking to accommodates development or re-development. This should effect the decisions made concerning new ordinances and zoning provisions. A major need for those on the West End is access to economic fresh foods year round. A micro-grocer would serve a great need on this end. Retailers on this end of town should consider tailoring to recreation tourists/community members with the potential commerce from the trail development.
B.) The downtown has an infrastructure that is degrading. Much of the downtown should be revitalized if economically possible. Greenville's downtown has an architectural charm that is being replicated by new development in larger communities (the day of urban sprawl and the strip mall is over). It would be wise to seek out investment in the infrastructure of our downtown, while working with owners on development of dilapidated sites that potentially must come down - creating a unified vision of what new development would look like in relationship to the existing aesthetic.
C.) East End Development: A major consideration for this segment would be the continuation of the downtown street-scape. It would not only create a continuety in our commercial/retail zone identity, but it would also create even more padestrian friendly and inviting spaces.
D, E & F. Recreation Development
We have an opportunity to be a small part of a very larger network. The map on the left showcases how Greenville is in a position to become alternative route, link, or extension however you might look at it. The Mercer Country Trails Association works diligently to make this happen, but has been met with unfortunate opposition (often from property owners who butt against the trails, fearful of change).
Development along this trail as well as addressing the other target areas show on the map above can curate a unique experience. Greenville has to stand out. Many in the area take our little town as a joke. We have plenty of opportunity to prove nay-sayers wrong. Shake it off.
Thanks to local entrepreneurs like Janet and Casey Shilling, the mother and son team behind Carried Away Recreation, we have access to recreation along our water trail. The non-profit group Shenango River Watchers help keep this water trail clean and clear for the enjoyment of locals and visitors.
Below are creative examples of developing our trail zone.
we must maintain and promote walkability in Greenville
G & H. Trinity Site and Industrial-Commercial Transitioning
The Trinity site has been a problem for years now. Although we are closer than we have ever been to gaining access to the property, it is still owned by Trinity Industries, Inc. Our economic development agency, Greenville Area Economic Development Corporation (GAEDC), has been the primary leader in what has taken place to this point. It is important to continue to work with our economic developers and support their efforts. Collaboration between the Council, the community and GAEDC should be taking place for a marketing game plan should the property become available for development (all contingent on Trinity Industries).
The area around the Trinity site, up into the future empty East Elementary space should be zoned for mixed-use development because of the Industrial/Commercial/Residential transitions. Mixed-use development would be beneficial to that residential area for a variety of reasons, including (but not limited to):
greater housing variety and density, more affordable housing (smaller units), life-cycle housing (starter homes to larger homes to senior housing)
reduced distances between housing, workplaces, retail businesses, and other amenities and destinations
better access to fresh, healthy foods (as food retail and farmers markets can be accessed on foot/bike or by transit)
more compact development, land-use synergy (e.g. residents provide customers for retail which provide amenities for residents)
stronger neighborhood character, sense of place
walkable, bike-able neighborhoods, increased accessibility via transit, both resulting in reduced transportation costs
Greenville is primarily a residential community with a housing density of approximately 1,668 units per square mile. The residential nature of community such as ours is critical. A focus on new industry and/or growing the job opportunities, although extremely important, will not effectively impact the success of the borough, if our population continues to decrease. New job opportunities in town do not automatically translate into individuals or families settling within the borough - this, however, is exactly what we need. The void created by a major decrease in residents causes all sorts of problems. In order to effectively address our residential woes, we must first recognize and name the issues. Here are some key problems the borough is currently facing in regards to our current residential climate.
Greenville is an old community - although there is considerable charm that comes with age, we must recognize that roughly 82% of the housing stock in Greenville is over 70 years old (having been built before 1940). With the lack of adequate maintenance - which comes at a great price - many of our properties have suffered major deterioration, and many also have fallen to the level or dilapidation or even condemnation.
The number of vacant, or for sale homes in Greenville continues to climb. The safety of our neighborhoods diminishes in proportion with the number of vacant properties.
The Renter Occupied vs. Owner Occupied balance is a particularly difficult argument. Greenville is walking a fine line as it navigates regulatory provisions in order to ensure adequate and compliant housing. If the borough becomes too strenuous owners with a large housing stock could opt to leave, while too lax can mean unsafe conditions for renters and the lowering of property values for a neighborhood.
Taxes in Greenville remain among the highest in the county. This is a vicious cycle. With a decrease in revenue as a result in a decrease in population, the knee-jerk reaction is to make up for the loss by increase the rate. This is what the borough has consistently done. Greenville has, however, crossed a threshold of sorts. With our rates among the highest, we are losing our marketability for new residents to make up the difference. It is critical to, at the bear minimum, start to plateau from our downward trend - or in the best case, start to move in the other direction.
Have we hit a point of no return? I don't believe so - but we are getting too close to that point for my comfort. Greenville is certainly no limited to the four major issues listed above regarding the boroughs residential component. A strategic plan is needed. I believe that a major focus of a new comprehensive plan should be spent on these very issues. We must do better in marketing and communicating the CDBG Home Rehabilitation Program while the program lasts. We must support through volunteerism and monetary donation charitable causes like His Work His Way, which makes major home improvements within the community every summer. We need to leverage the information soon to be gathered from the Brownfield Assessment Grant in order to lay out a strategic plan for vacant properties. We must become better marketers of our community. And most importantly, we must not lose our sense of community.