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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.

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

Call for Photos of Paddlers on Cayuga Lake to support the Blueway Trail

The Department of Planning and Sustainability is seeking photographs of kayaks, canoes, and other paddle-craft on Cayuga Lake to feature in marketing materials for the forthcoming Cayuga Lake Blueway Trail.

posted October 31, 2019


Stream Buffer Workshop

The Tompkins County Water Resources Council, in collaboration with Cornell Cooperative Extension and other partners, is hosting a workshop on stream buffer protection.

posted October 31, 2019

Draft Strategic Tourism Plan Available for Public Input

The County Tourism Program is accepting public comments for the Draft Strategic Tourism Plan through November 11, 2019.   

posted October 24, 2019

Development with the Earth in Mind: An Evening with the Tompkins County EMC

Oct. 29: Video is now available online of the full event. The Environmental Management Council is hosting its Fall 2019 public outreach event on Thursday, Oct. 17, 5:30-7:30pm  in the Borg Warner Room of the Tompkins County Library.. 

posted October 11, 2019


IncDev Training

The Planning and Sustainability Department is sponsoring a training for Municipal Planning Staff, Planning Board Members, and BZA Members on September 25, 6:30-9:30pm in the Borg Warner Room of the Tompkins County Library. 

posted September 24, 2019


Advisory Board Openings

The Planning and Sustainability Department has several openings for volunteers on its advisory boards. Learn more about our different boards and the application process on the Advisory Boards webpage. 

posted September 5, 2019


Tompkins County Green Fleet Program Development

Tompkins County is developing a Green Fleet Program to help advance the conversion of the County to plug-in electric vehicles (PEVs) to reduce consumption of fossil fuels. As a part of that program, the Fleet PEV Charging Infrastructure Report (August 2019) was developed and is now available. 

posted August 26, 2019

Video of Aug. 12 Presentations to HED Committee Available

Both video of the Early Intervention Homelessness Prevention Program presentation and Statewide Housing Security and Presentation Act of 2019 are now available. 

posted August 20, 2019

August/September Tompkins Tourism Talk

Find out what's new with the Tompkins County Tourism Program and discover County-sponsored community events to put on your calendar with our latest e-newsletter.

updated August 9, 2019

Tompkins County Energy Strategy

Tompkins County Legislature adopted the Tompkins County Energy Strategy on August 6, 2019. The Energy Strategy highlights actions the County will pursue to reduce greenhouse gas emissions through County operations and County leadership and partnerships in the community. The County's past actions and efforts have been compiled in this 10-page Energy and Sustainability Efforts document.

updated August 6, 2019

Fall 2019 Community Celebrations grant cycle is now open. Applications accepted through Aug. 29th.

Sign up for a free workshop for prospective applicants on July 31st.

updated July 9, 2019

Infill & Small Scale Development - Public Presentation

Around 100 community members attended the public presentation by the Incremental Development Alliance on Infill & Small Scale Development on Wednesday April 24th. Video of the event is available. Presentation slides. Application to join the Small Developer Mentorship Program.

updated May 17, 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









Draft Strategic Tourism Plan Available for Public Input

The County Tourism Program is accepting public comments for the Draft Strategic Tourism Plan through November 11, 2019.   

posted October 24, 2019