path for a sustainable future

Existing Conditions

Centrally located in upstate New York and covering just over 800 square miles, Onondaga County is home to over 450,000 residents in one city, 19 towns and 15 villages. Like many other regions in the northeast, Onondaga County has struggled with population decline, urban sprawl and a transitioning economy, but is also capitalizing on new opportunities such as urban revitalization, energy efficiency and economic pursuits.

A community cannot plan for its future without first understanding its past. This includes celebrating the positives, acknowledging the negatives and building from both. As such, the Sustainable Development Plan Existing Conditions Report examines the demographic trends and physical conditions of the natural and built environments in Onondaga County.

The purpose of the Existing Conditions analysis is to understand the baseline conditions in Onondaga County. In addition to helping inform this planning effort, much the Existing Conditions information will provide the starting point from which implementation progress can be monitored.

The Existing Conditions Report explored several topics, including:

  • Population & Employment;
  • Housing;
  • Land Use & Land Cover;
  • Infrastructure;
  • Community Assets; and
  • Natural Resources.

Key Challenges & Opportunities

The following list provides a summary of the key challenges and opportunities facing Onondaga County. Additional information can be found in the complete Existing Conditions Report, the Existing Conditions Map Book and Existing Conditions Data Tables Appendix (located on the right side of this page).

  • Onondaga County has undergone a redistribution of population that began in the years immediately following World War II. The proportion of the total population living in County towns and villages has increased from 30 percent to 70 percent over the past 80 years, while the proportion of County residents living in the city has dropped from 70 percent to 30 percent over that same time period. This inverse population relationship between the County’s towns and urbanized areas is a leading indicator of the County’s decentralization.

  • The average parcel size for single family residences has almost tripled, while the number of people living in each household has decreased by almost 33 percent. This equates to greater land consumption per person, with the vast majority of new development occurring on previously undeveloped lands (e.g., farms, forests, wetlands).

  • Onondaga County’s population in aging.

  • Over the past several decades, the overall educational attainment of County residents has been on the rise, which is a very positive trend in terms of attracting and retaining employers.

  • As the population continues to disperse across the County, commute times and distance have increased as jobs and housing are further apart.

  • Onondaga County lost 5,785 acres of farmland between 2002 and 2007 and 1,300 acres of forests were lost to development between 1992 and 2006.

  • The amount of vehicle miles traveled increased by 12 percent between 2000 and 2007 within the Syracuse Metropolitan Transportation Council (SMTC) Federal Aid Urbanized Area. Additionally, when compared to New York State as a whole, residents of the Syracuse metropolitan area drove almost 7.5 miles a day more than their statewide counterparts.