NY Upstate APA Bestows Planning Excellence Award for Best Practice

The New York Upstate Chapter of the American Planning Association recently awarded their 2014 Planning Excellence Award for Best Practice to New York State Department of Environmental Conservation’s (DEC’s) new online Environmental Assessment Form tools: the EAF Workbooks and the EAF Mapper application.
EAF Mapper Award
These tools were developed by DEC, environmental planning consultants Nan Stolzenburg (Community Planning & Environmental Associates), Don Meltz (Don Meltz Planning and GIS),  and the geographic information system development firm Fountains Spatial.
The annual Planning Excellence Award for Best Practice is given to a planning tool, practice, program, project, or process that is a significant advancement to specific elements of planning. Emphasis is placed on results, and how the best practice helps to promote efforts that foster greater participation in planning.
DEC prepared the EAF Workbooks to assist applicants, project sponsors, and reviewing agencies in completing the recently updated environmental assessment forms (EAFs). The workbooks provide background information for each question on the EAF, offer guidance on how to analyze issues, and provide additional resources that can be consulted if the project sponsor or the reviewing agency is seeking additional information on a specific topic. The workbooks make generous use of examples to illustrate typical situations that project sponsors and agencies encounter when conducting an environmental assessment.
The EAF Mapper is an Internet-based GIS tool that makes it easier for a project sponsor to prepare the EAF forms. To answer questions about a project site, the sponsor can either use the mapping software to identify the location by its tax map parcel number, or use a drawing tool built into the system to obtain the necessary site information.
Together, these new tools make it easier and quicker for applicants and reviewers to complete the forms that must be submitted as part of the State Environmental Quality Review (SEQR) process.
Additional information about the new SEQR forms, the companion EAF workbooks, and the EAF Mapper can be found on DEC’s website.

SEQR Environmental Assessment Forms Workshop

New SEQR Environmental Assessment Forms

SEAF workbookLast year, the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) adopted revised model environmental assessment forms (EAFs). This was the first major update to the Full EAF (FEAF) since 1978 and to the Short EAF (SEAF) since its last revision in 1987. During development of the new EAF’s, some concerns were raised about the level of detail needed to complete the new forms. As a result, DEC contracted with Nan Stolzenburg and Don Meltz to develop a set of online workbooks to provide additional guidance for completing them.

The effective date for the revised EAFs is April 1, 2013, after which all reviews under SEQR will require the use of these new EAFs. In response, Columbia Land Conservancy has announced another event in their Land Use Education Series:

SEQR: Using The New SEAF (Short Environmental Assessment Form)

For local government officials involved with State Environmental Quality Reviews (SEQR) through your municipal board positions, Nan Stolzenburg and Don Meltz will be offering a workshop in March on using the new SEQR forms. Don will include an overview of GIS resources available to help complete the forms.

Two dates have been set:

Tuesday, March 5th 5:30pm – 8:30pm, and
Saturday, March 30th 9:30am – 12:30pm


Columbia-Greene Community College – 4400 Route 23, Hudson
Professional Academic Center/Room 614

Free, but preregistration required:

You can register now on the CLC website.

Self-certification forms will be provided for 3.0 credit hours of land-use training for municipal boards. Credit will be awarded at the discretion of each municipality.

For more information, contact Ellen Jouret-Epstein at 518.392.5252, ext. 208 or ellen@clctrust.org.

New Website Launched at donmeltz.com

A major facelift to the old website

If you’ve been here before you’ll notice a whole new look to my website and a few new things have been added. The site has been completely redone from the ground up. Here’s a brief overview of what’s changed:


Home Page graphicThe primary goal for doing the redesign was to integrate my various online services as much as possible. Previously I had both a website and a blog, but they were hosted in different places and the design was different for each. The same was true for my map site. I also had a file sharing service that was not connected to any of my other services. All of these were functional, but they did not provide a very cohesive experience for my clients and visitors.

So, What’s new, and what’s changed?

News and Blog

Other than the look and feel of the website, the biggest change was the merging of my website and blog into the same space. I’ve added a News category to the blog that will be strictly for announcements of new clients, projects, and other business related content. The Blog entries will continue to be about whatever happens to be on my mind at any given moment, or what I happen to be working on at the time.


maps-donmeltzMy online map prototype now has its own spot on the website. This page is what I used to call my GeoSandbox. It has now evolved into a working online slippy-map that I’ve used for a few of my clients. It’s an efficient way to share data and analysis results. It is particularly useful for larger regional projects where paper and PDF maps simply cannot provide the level of detail needed at a scale that will fit on a single printed page. It’s also a great way to publish maps that change frequently. It is surprising how much paper gets used on a single project with multiple map drafts.

Client Area and Gopher

I’m also experimenting with a couple of file sharing options for my clients. Previously, I had been using the DropBox service to post and share files, and it has worked very well. However, there are a few minor limitations I’ve run into. So, I’ve added a spot where my clients can have their own password protected access (Client Area) or open access (Gopher) to the various files that pertain to their projects. This should make it easier for clients to find the documents and maps I’ve produced for them without having to ask me to send them another link or email attachment.

 Mobile Ready

All of the pages here use a responsive design, which means it should provide a nice user experience for those using smart phones and tablets to access the website as well as a traditional computer monitor. If you want to test this, try adjusting the browser window to a very narrow size to simulate a phone screen, and see how it reacts. That’s basically what responsive design means.

For the techno-geeks…

The entire website is written using HTML5 and PHP, with a little javascript thrown in where necessary. I’m using WordPress as my content management system (CMS), and self hosting on an Amazon Web Services medium instance Ubuntu 12.04 server. The same server hosts my OpenGeo Suite map publishing stack. Yes, I know all you bleeding edge types have moved on to hosting your blogs on GitHub using Octopress and Jekyll. But the fact is, WordPress does everything I want it to do and more, with plenty of room to grow. So, here I am.

The WordPress theme I’m using is a modified version of Twenty-twelve. I looked at dozens of other themes, but kept coming back to this one. I finally realized that if I were to build a theme from scratch, Twenty-twelve is probably what I’d want it to wind up being.

So there you have it. Feel free to browse around, and let me know what you think. I’m always open to new ideas and constructive criticism.

– Don

Columbia County Agricultural and Farmland Protection Plan

The Columbia County Agricultural and Farmland Protection Plan is out for public review

I worked on the mapping and spatial analysis aspects of this plan. I helped the board identify all of the active farmland in the county, and lead them through a LESA process, producing a prioritized list of farms and farmland to protect. The press release follows:
To help guide the sustainability of agriculture on a county-wide basis, the Columbia County Agricultural and Farmland Protection Board (AFPB) has developed a county-wide plan focused on agricultural economic development and farmland protection. The culmination of this two year project is the release of a draft Protection Plan for the county.  The complete document, with appendices, can be located on the web at: https://sites.google.com/a/columbiacountyny.com/columbia-county-agriculture-and-farmland-board/plan. Hard copies of the plan are available at County Office Building, 401 State St, Hudson, the Cornell Cooperative Extension Office located at 479 Rte. 66, Hudson, NY and at the Farm Credit office, 190 New York 9H, Claverack.
Public input at the beginning of the project was solicited to learn what the current and emerging issues facing agriculture are in Columbia County.  The AFPB has set up a series of listening sessions in January and February of 2013 to solicit input from county residents regarding the draft document.  Residents have the opportunity to participate in one of the following meetings:

  • January 22 – 6:00 – 7:00 P.M., Board of Supervisors Chamber, Columbia County Office, 401 State St., Hudson, NY
  • February 2 –  10:00 A.M. – Noon, Stuyvesant Town Hall, Stuyvesant, NY
  • February 9 –  10:00 A.M. – Noon, Ancram Town Hall, Ancram, NY

If you cannot make any of the scheduled meetings, your comments are still welcomed.  Please contact Mary Ann Johnson at Hudson Valley Agricultural Development Corporation at 518-432-5360 or at majohnson@hvadc.org.