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> Planning and Sustainability

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This is the official website for the Tompkins County Department of Planning and Sustainability. On this site you will find valuable information about planning for Tompkins County’s future, as well as ongoing programs administered by the Department. The menu to the left will help you learn about the Department and our activities. You can find a brief Snapshot of the County below.

What We Do 

The Department of Planning and Sustainability primarily works to implement the Tompkins County Comprehensive Plan which presents a long-term vision for the future of the community. Please follow the Comprehensive Plan link on the left for more information.

Many of the Department’s specific work activities have been identified in a series of short-term strategies for working toward achieving the Comprehensive Plan’s vision. These strategies have been prepared to address housing, land conservation, energy, tourism, and development. More about these strategies can be found by following the links on the left.

See our latest Annual Report (3.74 MB).

How We Do It

The Department informs and involves the general public, key stakeholders, and other organizations in the development of planning programs. We also strive to collaborate with others on projects and programs and apply the highest standards of professional planning practices and techniques.

Who We Are

The Department is led by Katherine Borgella, AICP, Commissioner of Planning and Sustainability, who oversees the nine-person department and all of its activities. Follow the Staff link on the left to learn more about the staff.

Snapshot of Tompkins County

Tompkins County is located in Upstate New York. It is a largely rural county of forest and agriculture, with the largest of the Finger Lakes, Cayuga Lake, dominating the landscape. The county seat is Ithaca with its world-renowned Cornell University and Ithaca College and there are several vibrant villages and hamlets located within the 315,000 acres that is Tompkins County.

In 2010, we had a population of 101,564 with about 59% living in the Ithaca urbanized area, which includes the City of Ithaca, much of the town of Ithaca, and parts of the towns of Lansing and Dryden. Population growth in the county has been slow but steady, averaging 0.5% annually for the last 30 years.

As a college town, Tompkins County’s economy, housing market, and population are closely tied to the three institutions of higher education: Cornell University, Ithaca College, and Tompkins Cortland Community College. Total enrollment at all three colleges is nearly 30,000 students. Students account for 30% of the county’s total population and 60% of the City of Ithaca’s population.

The County offers a diverse living environment – with a mixture of urban, suburban, and rural landscapes. The City of Ithaca has a population of 30,000 persons. The Villages of Lansing and Cayuga Heights are also located within the urbanized portion of the County. Four other villages and numerous hamlets are located within the rural portions off the county. About 30% of the county is considered agricultural, with about 80,000 acres of actively farmed lands.

Tompkins County contains spectacular natural features. There are approximately 26 miles of shoreline on Cayuga Lake punctuated by many picturesque gorges and numerous waterfalls. The southern portion of the County is dominated by rugged hills and the northern portion is flatter with excellent agricultural soils. With its varied topography and landforms, the county contains a number of interesting ecological communities, including streams, lakes, ponds, marshes, meadows, fens, forests, swamps, and cliffs.




Department of Planning and Sustainability News

Infill & Small Scale Development - Public Presentation

We are pleased to announce a public presentation by the Incremental Development Alliance on Infill & Small Scale Development on Wednesday April 24th, 6pm @ The Tompkins County Public Library's Borg Warner Room, after the event materials and video recording will be posted on the Community Planning page. Event flier can be downloaded here. More information on the IncDev webpage.

posted March 20, 2019

Municipal Grants Workshops Materials and Application Details

Municipalities are invited to apply for 2 new grants for 2019: the Municipal Housing Affordability Grant and the Towns and Villages Parks and Trails Grant. More details are on the Community Planning page.

posted January 7, 2019

Tompkins County achieves Climate Smart Community Silver Certification

On Sep. 28 the NYS Dept. of Environmental Conservation announced Tompkins County's silver certification as a Climate Smart Community, with the highest number of points earned in the state to date. For more information, please see the press release.

posted Nov. 5, 2018

Waste Not, Why Not!

Thursday, Oct. 18th, 5:00-6:30pm @ TCPL Discussion on the great programs for reducing and recycling waste, including a proposed ban on single-use plastic shopping bags, and learn about the concerns of Ontario County with their area landfill, the final destination for much of our own garbage.

Refreshments will be provided! For more information, please see the Waste Not, Why Not! press release.

posted Oct. 11, 2018

September Tourism Talk

Wizzarding Weekend, Authentically Rural... and more. Click here to view the Newsletter. 

posted Sept. 21, 2018

Commercial Energy Workshop

Join us for a FREE two-hour workshop intended to introduce various programs that can help businesses save energy and money. For more information, please read the workshop flyer, and RSVP to Andrea Aguirre ( by Monday, October 15. Light refreshments will be provided

posted Sept. 20, 2018

Advisory Board Openings

Tompkins County seeks civic-minded area residents for seats on several advisory boards. More information.

Commissioner of Planning and Sustainability Appointed

The Tompkins County Legislature, by unanimous vote, has approved the appointment of Katherine "Katie" Borgella as the County's Commissioner of Planning and Sustainability. For more, read the press release.

posted December 7, 2017

Community Housing Development Fund Award

In the 16th funding round of the CHDF program, Lakeview Health Services was awarded $250,000 for its 60-unit West End Heights affordable housing project in the City of Ithaca.

posted November 17, 2017

Legislature Endorses Housing Strategy

On Thursday, July 6th, the County Legislature officially endorsed the Housing Strategy by unanimous vote.

posted July 11, 2017

County Releases Energy Focus Area Study

Tompkins County and the Tompkins County IDA funded a study of energy infrastructure in four areas key to the community's economic development. The study found one inadequacy - natural gas along Warren Road - and explores alternatives to increasing natural gas supply. For more information about the study see here. The full report is available here.

posted June 6, 2017