Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs and the Board of County Commissioners unanimously accepted the Orange County Sustainability Plan known as “Our Home for Life” on May 13.
The plan, presented by the Sustainability Committee appointed by the Mayor, outlines incremental and transformative changes for the County through 2040 to improve the quality of life for current and future Orange County residents and visitors. The plan contains 37 goals that focus on seven target areas of impact –Community, Natural Resources, Mobility, Built Environment, Arts & Culture, Education, and Civic Engagement.
“Our Sustainability Plan, known as ‘Our Home for Life,’ continues our efforts to create a future in which Orange County will be known as the best place in the world to live, work, play, and raise a family,” Mayor Jacobs said. “We are committed to leaving a legacy for future generations that will provide them with a quality of life that is even better than today. Our Sustainability Plan will lead us in achieving a more diverse, resilient, and thriving economy while protecting and enhancing our cultural and environmental legacy for generations to come.”
The plan is the result of the Mayor’s Sustainability Initiative, which began in 2013 as an effort to plan for future population growth in a way that enhances our quality of life. An ad hoc Sustainability Committee was formed with the purpose of bringing together community leaders and subject-matter experts to create a plan for a more prosperous, healthy, and livable community by holistically addressing economic, environmental, social, and cultural issues.
Former Orange County Commissioner John Martinez, Director of Public Finance for PNC Capital Markets LLC, assumed the role as chair of the committee. He and 11 other committee members worked to address the seven focus areas for the sustainability plan. External representatives were invited to participate on subcommittees whose first task was to develop a Sustainability Assessment—a snapshot of where the County is now, including challenges, opportunities, assessment of available metrics, recent accomplishments, and current initiatives.
“Our goal was to develop a collective vision for the future, and this plan makes that vision a reality,” Martinez said. “What we discovered was there is a tremendous amount of interconnectivity among the seven focus areas. In every single one you can find an example affected by the other areas. For example, each focus area affects the education and academic performance of our children, from how they get to school, to where they learn and what they learn, to how they take what they learn to make the world a better place.”
Once the Assessment was completed, more than 150 stakeholders including local professionals, interested persons, and local government representatives from throughout the County participated in developing the plan. In addition to input from community leaders who served on the Sustainability Committee and subcommittees, the County provided opportunities for public input at each Sustainability Committee meeting and at community workshops held in March and April 2014. The County also used PlaceSpeak, a virtual town hall discussion tool, to obtain input on the draft goals and strategies from anyone living or working in Orange County.
“We believe we’ve set a course to a more sustainable future,” said Susan Caswell, Orange County Assistant to the Director, Community, Environmental, and Development Services Department. “Thanks to the strong leadership we have at Orange County, we now have a framework to guide us in making key decisions that will move the County toward sustainability. For such a rapidly growing and dynamic area, there is no better time to put this framework in place.”
To carry the plan forward, the Sustainability Committee recommended forming a Sustainability Advisory Board to oversee implementation, review progress toward meeting goals and targets, and make adjustments as necessary. Reports on Sustainability Plan progress to the Board of County Commissioners and the public will be made on at least an annual basis. A staff-level committee also will assist with implementing the plan and will work to integrate sustainability guiding principles throughout Orange County Government’s operations.
For more information on Our Home for Life, please visit Orange County’s website, http://www.orangecountyfl.net/OpenGovernment/Sustainability.aspx.