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> Planning and Sustainability

Decorative picture of lake

The Department of Planning and Sustainability offices are currently not accepting walk-in visits from the public. Our staff is available to schedule appointments or assist you remotely and will continue to update this website with new information on our plans and programs. Thank you for your patience – We are All in this Together.


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

Department Seeks New Planner 

Recruitment is underway for a new Senior Planner to focus on housing issues in the community, with an application deadline of Monday, December 7, 2020.

The full vacancy announcement and additional information about employment with Tompkins County are available online.

updated November 5, 2020

Department Closed to Public but Accessible by Phone and Online 

The Department's offices remain closed to walk-in visits from the public. However, staff members are available should you wish to contact them by phone (607-274-5560) or directly by email, and many of the department’s resources are also available onlineThank you for your patience and wishing you the best of health.

updated August 3, 2020

COVID19 Rental Assistance Program

Funding is available to help renter households impacted by COVID19. Full details available at

Program Flyer

Press release 

posted June 3, 2020

Municipal Parks and Trails Grant Deadline Extended

Please note the deadline has been extended indefinitely and check back for updates.

posted March 18, 2020

Materials from 2020 Municipal Grants and Assistance Workshops Available Online

Materials from the 2020 Municipal Grants and Assistance Workshops (held Jan. 29 and Feb. 6) are available as a full packet here, or by individual components here.

posted February 7, 2020

Input sought on the Route 13 Corridor between Warren Road to the Village of Dryden 

The County would like to hear from users of the corridor about their experiences using the road. There will be an open house at Brewer's Cafe and Tap Room on February 6, as well as an online survey. Please click here for more information.

posted January 24, 2020

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, hosted a workshop Nov. 21 on stream buffer protection.

posted October 31, 2019