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Vision Partnership Program (VPP) Grants

Grants to Chester County, Pennsylvania Municipalities for
Local Planning, Sustainability, and Economic Development

Agency Type:


Funding Source:

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Chester County Board of Commissioners, Chester County Planning Commission (CCPC)

Conf. Date:


Deadline Date:

02/21/18 4:00 PM


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Grants to Chester County, Pennsylvania municipalities to improve local planning programs in order to meet county-level planning goals. Applicants are strongly encouraged to schedule a pre-application meeting with program staff no later than February 16. This program supports municipal plan revisions, municipal planning, and innovative growth management.

The Vision Partnership Program is a planning grant available to local municipalities and multi-municipal regions seeking to improve their planning programs and achieve consistency with the goals, objectives, and policies of Landscapes2. The Chester County Board of Commissioners first established the Vision Partnership Program in 1996 to promote cooperation between local governments and the County to implement Landscapes, the County’s Comprehensive Policy Plan. The Vision Partnership Program was revised and re-established in 2010 to reflect the County’s updated Policy Plan, Landscapes2.

Landscapes2 is Chester County's comprehensive policy plan. It establishes growth management and preservation strategies to guide municipalities, developers, preservationists, and others in making decisions that promote sustainable practices and ensure that future residents have access to the same benefits that current resident enjoy.

Program Purpose:

The County Board of Commissioners, recognizing the benefits to the County of allocating grant awards to municipal planning projects that most effectively implement Landscapes2, established the VPP grant program to achieve the following purposes:

1. Encourage revisions to municipal plans, ordinances, and planning studies to achieve consistency with the principles of Landscapes2 and the County’s Strategic Plan;
2. Encourage innovation in municipal planning to effectively manage growth in a manner consistent with Landscapes2;
3. Foster multi-municipal planning efforts to effectively address planning issues facing Chester County municipalities;
4. Promote the use of professional planning expertise to address growth management and other planning issues at the municipal and multi-municipal level; and
5. Provide funding to municipalities to supplement the Chester County Planning Commission staff’s ability to directly assist municipalities in the implementation of Landscapes2.

Consultant Selection and Qualifications:

Consultant Selection:

A. The Chester County Planning Commission (for in-kind grants) or a qualified professional planning consulting firm (for cash grants) shall be retained to complete the projects eligible under the grant program. When seeking a planning consultant, municipalities are encouraged to review the County’s publication Planning Bulletin #50 Selecting and Working with Professional Consultants (2002).

B. The municipality may select the planning consulting firm prior to the submission of a formal VPP grant application or after the VPP grant is awarded.

1. If the applicant chooses to select a consultant after the grant is awarded, the consultant shall be selected within one hundred twenty (120) days of the date of the grant award for a single municipality project, and within one hundred eighty (180) days of the date of the grant award for a multi-municipal project. In such cases, the selected consultant must meet the VPP consultant qualifications as outlined in the Grant Manual.

2. If the VPP grant is to be used as a match for another grant program, additional flexibility in the consultant selection timing may be permitted at the discretion of the Grant Administrator.

3. In all cases, whether chosen prior to or after the grant award, the municipality shall not enter into a formal agreement with the consultant until approved by the Grant Administrator.

C. A grant award shall be denied if the selected planning consulting firm(s) does not qualify to undertake the proposed project. If there is any question as to whether the consultant and lead planner meet the qualifications outlined, the VPP Grant Administrator should be contacted for a determination prior to final consultant selection.

D. Municipalities may wish to obtain multiple proposals when seeking professional planning services under the VPP grant program. While not required under this program, the request for proposal (RFP) process provides the municipality an opportunity to select the best consultant, scope, and cost for a given project.

Consultant Qualifications:

A. Consultant qualification requirements are intended to ensure that the final product will be comprehensive; accurate; consistent with the Pennsylvania Municipalities Planning Code (MPC), where applicable; consistent with the goals, objectives, and policies of Landscapes2; and tailored to the municipality’s needs and character. County planning staff designated to work on in-kind grant projects shall also possess planning experience necessary for the type of project assigned.

B. The consulting firm and lead planner selected by a municipality shall comply with the conditions stated and minimum requirements outlined below to demonstrate that they possess the necessary experience to undertake the anticipated project and the scope of work.

C. The prospective firm and lead planner shall submit their qualifications to both the municipality and the County as part of the VPP grant application. Submission of consultant qualifications is recommended in association with the pre- application grant meeting with the County. The municipality and County will review qualifications to mutually determine if the consultant(s) is suited for the proposed project. In all cases, the County will make the final determination of consulting firm and lead planner eligibility.

D. Planning consultants shall qualify on a project-by-project basis. The qualification of a planning consultant on a given project does not guarantee qualification for future planning projects. Given that a variety of innovative projects are eligible for funding under this program, the County reserves the right to impose additional requirements where appropriate.

E. The County has the right to reject a consulting firm and/or lead planner that is unqualified for the specific project or unqualified in a specific planning area. A consulting firm may subcontract with another consultant provided the subcontracting firm possesses expertise in the planning area(s) in which the primary consultant is deficient. The County will not fund a project if a municipality proceeds with an unqualified consultant.

F. If the consultant has been chosen by the municipality in advance of the grant award, the following information shall be provided with the VPP application. If the consultant is chosen after the grant award has been made, this information shall be provided to the Grant Administrator upon selection of the consultant, but prior to entering a formal agreement with the consultant.

1. A summary of the consulting firm’s experience on projects of similar scope and size and with municipalities of similar character, size and structure. The consulting firm may also submit a summary of projects not directly related to the proposed project, but which demonstrate successful project management including product delivery and municipal client satisfaction. A minimum of two (2) references and contact numbers shall be included; and

2. A description of staff resources, including brief resumes and an identification of the lead planner and primary team members to be assigned to the proposed project.

Lead Planner Qualifications:

The planning consulting firm or team shall designate a “lead planner” to lead the work program. The lead planner shall be responsible for the overall execution of the work program; act as the principal contact with the various stakeholders; and attend all work sessions, public meetings, and public hearings as outlined in the scope of work. The planning consulting firm shall provide verification that the lead planner meets the following minimum requirements:

1. Bachelor’s or Master’s Degree in Planning, Landscape Architecture, or related field, from an accredited college or university.
2. A minimum of five (5) years of professional planning work experience, at least two (2) of which have been in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and proficiency in the specific work program area. This experience shall include primary responsibility for major planning projects as well as experience in municipalities of similar size and character.
3. Proven experience in:
a. Project management.
b. Working with municipal officials to establish public policies and programs.
c. Analyzing the consequences of recommended actions.
d. Applying elements of the planning process, including problem identification, goal setting, identifying alternatives, implementation, and evaluation.
4. Membership in the American Institute of Certified Planners (AICP) is preferred, but not required.

General Project Eligibility Requirements:

The following requirements shall be met for a project to be considered eligible for funding under the VPP grant program:

A. The project shall implement one or more of the policies of Landscapes2 at the municipal or multi-municipal level.

B. Projects enabled by the Pennsylvania Municipalities Planning Code (MPC), Act 247, as amended shall demonstrate compliance with the requirements of the MPC.

C. The municipal comprehensive plan should be less than ten (10) years old prior to pursuing a VPP grant for projects other than a full comprehensive plan update or amendment. A municipality may request a waiver of this requirement if they have followed the procedure described in Section 301(c) of the MPC concerning the review of municipal and multi- municipal plans at ten-year intervals. Documentation of this procedure and a discussion indicating why the older plan is still relevant, and why the proposed project is more urgent, shall be included with the VPP application.

Eligible Projects:

A. The following projects are eligible for funding under the Vision Partnership Program. Projects to be adopted under the provisions of the MPC shall demonstrate compliance with the minimum requirements of the MPC. Projects not adopted under the provisions of the MPC are defined as “Planning Studies” for the purposes of the grant manual.

Countywide Planning:
-Comprehensive Plans
-Zoning Ordinances
-Subdivision and Land Development Ordinances
-Official Maps and Ordinances
-Community Design Guides (including Streetscape Improvement Plans)

Urban Landscape:
-Urban Center Revitalization Plans
-Traditional Neighborhood Development and Transit Oriented Development Plans and Ordinances
-Central Business District Plans and Studies
-Economic Development Plans and Studies
-Form Based Codes
-Streetscape Improvement Plans
-Brownfield Site Redevelopment Plans or Studies

Rural/Agricultural Landscape
-Village Plans, Studies, and Ordinances See also 4.0 Agriculture

Suburban Landscape
-Suburban Center Plans and Studies
-Economic Development Plans and Studies
-Traditional Neighborhood Development, Transit Oriented Development, Mixed Use Development Plans and Ordinances
-Brownfield Site Redevelopment Plans or Studies

Natural Landscape
-See Natural Resources

-Natural Resources
-Natural Resources Protection Plans and Ordinances

-Agricultural Planning and Preservation Activities including: Effective Agricultural Zoning; Cluster Design Options; and Transfer of Development Rights

-Historic Resources
-Historic Resource Surveys (in accordance with PHMC standards)
-Historic Resource Plans or Studies (in accordance with the planning standards of “Preserving Our Places” (CCPC, 1998)
-Historic Resource Ordinances

-Transportation Improvement, Access Management or Corridor Plans/Feasibility Studies
-Parking Management Plans or Studies
-Capital Improvement Plans (including Transportation Capital Improvement Plans in Article V-A of the MPC) and Traffic Impact Fee Ordinances.
-Bicycle-Pedestrian-Transit Related Plans and Ordinances
-Airport Planning and Zoning

-Housing Plans or Studies

-Utilities And Infrastructure
Capital Improvement Plans

Community Services
-Issues relating to community services can be addressed under 1.1 Comprehensive Plans and 1.2 Urban Center Revitalization Plans.

Economic Development
-Central Business District Plans and Studies
-Urban Center Revitalization Plans
-Suburban Center Plans and Studies
-Economic Development Plans and Studies
-Traditional Neighborhood Development, Transit Oriented Development, Mixed Use Development Plans and Ordinances
-Brownfield Site Redevelopment Plans or Studies
-Streetscape Improvement Plans

Energy Conservation
-Energy Conservation and Sustainability Plans and Studies
-Traditional Neighborhood Development, Transit Oriented Development, Mixed Use Development Plans or Ordinances

B. Historic Resource Surveys and Plans - Historic resource surveys shall only be funded as a “planning study” and only when in compliance with PHMC (Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission) standards. Updates to historic resource elements of comprehensive plans shall comply with the historic preservation plan standards of Preserving Our Places (CCPC, 1998). Projects that fail to meet these standards risk the loss of grant reimbursement.

Eligible Costs:

The following costs are considered eligible for reimbursement under the VPP grant program if they are included in the project scope of work and attached to the approved grant contract:

A. Professional planning consultant fees directly relating to the approved scope of work.
B. Data collection and analysis that leads to a planning recommendation.
C. Mapping and graphics directly related to the approved project.
D. Monthly duplicating costs associated with the project and deliverables.
E. Review of draft materials by non-planning professionals, such as attorneys or engineers, provided such total review costs do not exceed ten (10) percent of the total eligible costs for the project (applies to cash grants only).
F. Publication of the adopted document, up to thirty (30) copies (applies to cash grants only).

GrantWatch ID#:

GrantWatch ID#: 139184

Term of Contract:

The anticipated projects start date for Round I projects is Sept. - Oct. 2018.

The anticipated project start date for Round II projects is Jan. - Feb. 2019.

Project timeframes shall be specified in the grant contract and include completion of the work program and the adoption or acceptance process. Minimum contract timeframes shall be as follows:

1. Municipal Comprehensive Plan Update: Twenty-four (24) months
2. Multi-municipal Comprehensive Plan: Thirty-six (36) months
3. Urban Center Revitalization Plan: Eighteen (18) months
4. Community Center Development Plan: Eighteen (18) months
5. Municipal Transportation Improvement Plan: Eighteen (18) months

6. Zoning Ordinance Update: Twenty-four (24) months
7. Qualified Zoning Ordinance Amendment: Twelve (12) months
8. Subdivision & Land Development Ordinance Update: Eighteen (18) months
9. Qualified Subdivision Ordinance Amendment: Twelve (12) months
10. Traditional Neighborhood Development: Twelve (12) months

Other Projects
11. Special Project: Eighteen (18) months
12. Official Map: Twelve (12) months

Additional Eligibility Criteria:

The VPP grant is open to all Chester County municipalities. Eligible applicants include a single municipality, a group of two (2) or more contiguous municipalities, or a group of two (2) or more municipalities when located in the same school district. The application shall be submitted by a municipality or a designated lead municipality in the case of a multi-municipal application.

Requirements for Multi-Municipal Applications:

In addition to the requirements above, a multi-municipal planning group shall comply with the following requirements when preparing a VPP grant application:

A. Each multi-municipal project shall be clearly defined in terms of scope, funding, and municipal participation. Participating municipalities shall agree to the proposed work program and provide individual letters of support for the project. The municipal endorsement letters shall be attached to the grant application.

B. A single application shall be filed and a single municipality shall be designated as the lead municipality responsible for administration of the contract. All communications and transactions shall be directed through the lead municipality.

C. Each member municipality shall agree to actively participate in the work program by designating a representative from both the governing body and the planning commission to participate on the project task force.

D. Municipalities involved in a multi-municipal comprehensive plan shall not be eligible for VPP funding to undertake a full comprehensive plan update at the same time as the term of the multi-municipal plan. Partial updates to a specific comprehensive plan section, such as the historic resources plan, may be considered on a case-by-case basis.

Ineligible Projects:

Funding under the VPP grant program is established to support the implementation of Landscapes2 at the municipal or multi-municipal level. The funds are for planning and related activities and are not intended for land acquisition, equipment or other capital expenses. In addition, projects undertaken by municipal staff shall not be eligible for funding. The following list provides examples of projects that are not eligible under this program:

A. Plans, ordinances, and studies which are inconsistent with the goals, objectives, and policies of Landscapes;
B. Act 537 plans and updates (state funding may be available from the Department of Environmental Protection);
C. Park master plans (state funding is available from the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources);
D. Building codes and similar products;
E. Geographic Information System hardware or software;
F. Road maintenance plans;
G. Those portions of otherwise eligible projects that have commenced prior to the awarding of a VPP grant award; and
H. Projects that have received funding under another Chester County grant program (projects that are eligible for more than one County grant program will be directed to the most appropriate program).

Ineligible Costs:

The following costs shall not be eligible for reimbursement under this program:
A. Costs associated with the preparation and submittal of the grant application
B. Administrative costs
C. Rental of meeting facilities
D. Advertising costs
E. Land acquisition
F. Food or refreshments
G. Equipment and other capital costs
H. Expenses incurred prior to the contract start date or after the end date of grant award
I. Other costs deemed ineligible by the County Planning Commission

Pre-proposal Conference:

Applicants are strongly urged to schedule a pre-application meeting with the Grant Administrator (Planning Services Director) to discuss their project prior to submitting a formal grant application. At this meeting, the Grant Administrator can determine if the proposed project is eligible for grant funding and review the grant application and program requirements with the applicant. Pre-application meetings are encouraged to take place early in the grant round and should be scheduled no less than 10 days prior to the grant application deadline.

VPP Grant Round 1
-February 16, 2018: Final date for pre-application meetings. Pre-application meetings are strongly encouraged.

VPP Grant Round 2
-August 10, 2018: Final date for pre-application meetings. Pre-application meetings are strongly encouraged.

Total timing for this process, from the time of the grant application submittal deadline to final approval by the Commissioners, will be approximately three to four months, depending on when the signed contracts are returned to CCPC for processing and the dates of the Commissioners’ meetings. Note that selecting a consultant after the awarding of the grant may lengthen this timeline.

Pre-Application Information:

Proposed 2018 VPP Grant Round Dates:

VPP Grant Round 1
-January 2, 2018: Round 1 grant application period opens.
-February 16, 2018: Final date for pre-application meetings. Pre-application meetings are strongly encouraged.
-February 21, 2018: Grant applications due in CCPC office by 4:00 PM.
-April 11, 2018: Grant award recommendations made by CCPC Grants Review Committee.
-April-June 2018: Grant contracts prepared by CCPC for signature by municipalities and consultants.
-July-Aug. 2018: Grant contracts go before Commissioners for final approval and signature. Specific dates will be dependent on the Commissioners' meeting schedule.
-Sept.-Oct. 2018: Anticipated project start dates.

VPP Grant Round 2
-June 25, 2018: Round 2 grant application period opens.
-August 10, 2018: Final date for pre-application meetings.
-August 15, 2018: Grant applications due in CCPC office by 4:00 PM.
-October 10, 2018: Grant award recommendations made by CCPC Grants Review Committee.
-Oct.-Nov. 2018: Grant contracts prepared by CCPC for signature by municipalities and consultants.
-Dec. 2018-Jan.2019: Grant contracts go before Commissioners for final approval and signature. Specific dates will be dependent on the Commissioners' meeting schedule.
-Jan.-Feb. 2019: Anticipated project start dates.

The next round of VPP funding is anticipated to open in 2019.

Municipal Project Examples:

More information about the Landscapes2 Plan may be found here:

Contact Information:

Before starting your grant application, please review the funding source's website listed below for updates/changes/addendums/conferences/LOIs.

Questions about the grant program and requests for pre-application meetings can be directed to:

Susan Elks, Planning Services Director

Chester County Planning Commission
601 Westtown Road, Suite 270
P.O. Box 2747
West Chester, PA 19380-0990

P: 610-344-6285
F: 610-344-6515

URL for Full Text (RFP):

Geographic Focus:

USA: Pennsylvania: Chester County