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Pioneer Valley Smart Growth Summit on May 9 to Tackle Climate Threats

HOLYOKE — More than 100 local leaders from across the region will assemble on Thursday, May 9 for a Pioneer Valley Smart Growth Summit to discuss strategies for thriving in an era of climate crisis and inequality.

The conference, to take place at Gateway City Arts, 92 Race St., Holyoke, will be hosted by the Massachusetts Smart Growth Alliance (MSGA) and the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission (PVPC) with the goal of helping cities and towns build cross-cutting teams to manage growth and development in an era of complexity.

“Emerging issues around extreme storms, flood hazards, heat, and a changing environment require communities like ours to be more thoughtful about planning and development,” said Holyoke Mayor Alex Morse. “If we’re going to achieve a prosperous community for everyone, we need to look at creative solutions.”

Other speakers will include Easthampton Mayor Nicole LaChapelle; Rick Sullivan, president and CEO of the Economic Development Council of Western Massachusetts; Liz O’Gilvie, chair of the Springfield Food Policy Council; Elisabeth Hamin Infield, professor of Regional Planning at the School of Landscape Architecture and Regional Planning, UMass Amherst; Agawam Town Engineer Michelle Chase; Laura Marx, forest ecologist with the Nature Conservancy; Sarita Hudson, director of Programs and Development at the Public Health Institute of Western Massachusetts; Sandra Sheehan, administrator at the Pioneer Valley Transit Authority; Wayne Feiden, Northampton’s director of Planning and Sustainability; Gerry McCafferty, Springfield’s director of Housing; Marcos Marrero, Holyoke’s director of Planning and Economic Development; PVPC Executive Director Tim Brennan; and MSGA Executive Director André Leroux.

“In 2017 alone, there was an estimated $307 billion in damage to real estate in the United States from storms and natural disasters, and poor communities were the hardest hit,” Leroux said. “Strengthening those neighborhoods now will save money down the road.”

Catherine Ratte’, PVPC’s principal planner and Land Use & Environment section manager, added that “the Pioneer Valley was the first region with a regional climate-action and clean-energy plan, which speaks to our commitment to building sustainable and resilient communities, and this summit promises to further catalyze us into action. We’ve got to work together to make sure our cities and towns will be built smart and strong for the next generation.”

To accomplish this, residents, engineers, planners, businesses, and politicians will have to create new ways of collaborating and decision making. Where and how they build matters, she said, and there are opportunities to use the natural and built environment to solve complex problems. 

The innovative format of the summit is designed to encourage issue experts to build relationships and talk to each other across communities.

Elements of the program will include opportunities to network, lessons learned from the natural-gas disaster in the Merrimack Valley and the tornado recovery, along with a series of rapid-fire presentations to present thought-provoking ideas. The centerpiece of the day will be a discussion with local experts challenging each other and offering creative solutions.

Members of the public are welcome. The cost is $25 for the half-day program. To register and see a program, visit www.great-neighborhoods.org/pvsummit. Planners (AICP members) can earn 2.0 Certification Maintenance (CM) credits for this activity in full. More information about AICP’s CM program can be found at www.planning.org/cm.

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