Susan Elks

DEWN (2015)

Planning Services Director

Chester County Planning Commission

Unionville, Pennsylvania

Personal pronouns: She, her, hers

Community Planner    ¡      Environmental Planner      ¡      Project Manager      ¡     Group Facilitator

Highlights of Qualifications

16 years of experience spanning community, land use, and environmental planning and regulatory compliance
Experience in public, private, and non-profit sectors
Experience with a broad range of organizations, agencies, and government levels
Member of the American Institute of Certified Planners (#160457)
Irving Hand Excellence in Planning Professional Development Award (2011)
Able to advance decision making with effective group facilitation
Concise and effective written and oral communicator


Capabilities Overview

Land Use and Community Planning

Led multiple municipalities through development and adoption of comprehensive plans and ordinances
Experienced in single municipality efforts as well as multi-municipality and diverse stakeholder group efforts
Proficient in resource assessment, impact analysis, and development of recommendations and avoid/minimize/mitigate options
Ability to interpret regulatory documents and achieve compliance

Environmental and Cultural Resource Expertise

Experienced in field studies and compliance documentation across a range of natural and cultural resources
Expert knowledge in natural resource identification and regulation
Proficient in identification of park and recreation, historic, and cultural resources

Coordination and Communication

Proven ability to communicate effectively with diverse groups of people
Experienced in facilitating and leading groups ranging in size from five to twenty
Ability to achieve consensus within groups
Experienced in agency coordination and public outreach over a range of issues
Effective communicator through plans, ordinances, reports, brochures, newsletters, websites, and social media


Consistently achieve project completion within scope and budget
Supervise staff on a project basis
Oversight of multiple grant projects from initiation through adoption
Project manager on multiple projects with diverse stakeholder groups
Responsible for development of budgets, scoping, and invoicing for multiple projects
Non-profit committee chair, responsible for development and presentation of multiple events and committee action



West Chester University

M.A., Geography (Environmental Planning focus), 2003

University of North Carolina at Asheville

B.S., cum laude, Department Distinction, Environmental Studies (Natural Resource Management track), 1997

Additional Coursework

Facilitation and Mediation of Public and Environmental Conflicts, CDR Associates, 2012
Basic Mediation Training, Lancaster Mediation Center, 2012


Employment History

Planner IV/Community Planner                        Chester County Planning Commission                West Chester, PA

Environmental Planner                                     Jacobs Engineering                                             West Chester, PA

Environmental Planner                                     Stell Environmental Enterprises                          Elverson, PA

Planner II                                                          Onslow County Planning Department                 Jacksonville, NC

Environmental Planner                                     Orth-Rodgers and Associates                             Malvern, PA

Environmental Scientist                                    URS Corporation                                                 King of Prussia, PA

Environmental Health Specialist                       Chester County Health Department                    West Chester, PA

Water Resources Intern                                    Quality Forward                                                   Asheville, NC

Entomology Intern                                             Stroud Water Research Center                           Avondale, PA



Professional Experience

Planner IV/Community Planner                                                                                                                                    August 2008 – Current

Chester County Planning Commission, County of Chester, West Chester, PA

Local government planning focused on plan and ordinance preparation for municipal clients in compliance with the Pennsylvania Municipalities Planning Code (Act 247), monitoring of county funded planning projects, and special projects as necessary.  Duties also include public involvement, oversight of junior staff on a project basis, and review of grant contracts.

Plan and Ordinance Preparation - Includes authoring materials across a range of resources and issues, management of schedule and scope, public involvement, and leading committees representing diverse interests, including elected officials, municipal staff, residents, business owners, and volunteers.  Assisted with development of a new comprehensive plan scope and template, to condense the timeline for plan development and make documents more user-friendly.  Projects have included the Longwood Gardens Cooperative Planning Project, Pocopson Township Comprehensive Plan, Elverson Borough Comprehensive Plan, and Pennsbury Zoning Ordinance.     

Monitoring of Grant Funded Projects – Provide oversight and technical assistance, including invoice review, budget review, and coordination with consultants, municipalities, and committee members.  Projects include regional planning, single municipality plans, subdivision and land development ordinances, and connectivity planning.   

Special Projects – Include facilitation of stakeholder groups to update two county strategic goals and associated measures, serving on the Section 106 Review Committee for the Department of Community Development, and coordinating with the Department of Emergency Services on various emergency services and management issues, including the countywide hazard mitigation plan update. 


Environmental Planner                                                                                                                                              October 2006 – July 2008

Jacobs Engineering, West Chester, PA

National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) compliance documentation and local government planning; duties included marketing and project scoping.  Projects included:

Abandoned Water Line Environmental Assessment (EA), Acadia National Park, ME – EA revisions as requested by the National Park Service to clarify impacts associated with an abandoned municipal water line leaching lead within Acadia National Park.

Safe Routes to School Sidewalk Design, Tredyffrin Township, PA – Assisted with scoping, public involvement, and regulatory coordination for sidewalks that were funded through the Safe Routes to School program.  


Environmental Planner                                                                                                                                         July 2005 – September 2006

Stell Environmental Enterprises, Elverson, PA

Local government planning and NEPA compliance documentation; duties included scoping and budget development.  Projects included: 

Northwest Adams County Joint Comprehensive Plan, Adams County, PA - Responsible for scoping this six municipality comprehensive plan, conducting background investigations and municipal interviews, and assisting with steering committee meetings. 

Birdsboro Park, Recreation, and Open Space Plan, Berks County, PA - Responsible for completion of a new park, recreation, and open space plan for Birdsboro Borough.  Important considerations were updating existing facilities and identifying connections.  Tasks included conducting public outreach, data collection, development of recommendations, and presentation of findings.       


Planner II                                                                                                                                                             January 2004 – February 2005

Onslow County Planning Department, County of Onslow, Jacksonville, NC

Managed and conducted tasks related to land use, environmental, and transportation planning, and provided oversight of junior staff.  Onslow County, home to Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, is a rural, coastal county with extensive agriculture, silviculture, and water resources facing increasing development pressure.  Position involved coordination with local, state, and federal governments, as well as local and national non-profits.  Specific efforts included:   

Open Space:  Organized meetings for a regional open space plan and represented county interests in coordination meetings for the Onslow Bight, a network of federal, state, and local organizations committed to preserving habitat in the region. 

Environmental Planning:  Reviewed proposed projects for environmental impacts, developed information briefs on key issues for the Board of Commissioners, and represented county interests to local environmental organizations. 

Outreach/Education:  Conducted training for the citizen Planning Board and contributed to and edited a quarterly newsletter.

Land Use:  Assessed proposed projects against comprehensive plan policies, reviewed proposed subdivisions for regulatory compliance, assisted with final stages of countywide zoning implementation, and prepared GIS mapping and information briefs for the Planning Board. 


Environmental Planner                                                                                                                                   January 2002 – November 2003

Orth-Rodgers and Associates, Malvern, PA

NEPA compliance studies and documentation; duties included project invoicing and oversight of junior staff.  Projects included:    

PA Route 23 Environmental Impact Statement, Agricultural Assessment and Plain Sect Coordination, Lancaster County, PA - Assessed and minimized impacts to agricultural and Plain Sect community resources for a 14-mile highway project for PennDOT, and assisted with public outreach through interviews, small group meetings, public displays, and project newsletters.

Corridor O, Environmental Evaluation Report, Section 2002, and Agricultural Investigations, Clearfield and Centre Counties, PA -  

Assessed park, recreation, and agricultural impacts and mitigation strategies for a proposed 25-mile new highway corridor for PennDOT.  The project utilized a streamlined approach with early agency and public involvement.   


Environmental Scientist                                                                                                                                         July 1999 – December 2001

URS Corporation, King of Prussia, PA

Environmental field studies and NEPA compliance documentation; duties included scoping and budget development.  Projects included:

Newark Raceway and Reservoir, Wetland Delineation and Agency Coordination, New Castle County, DE - Conducted a wetland delineation and agency coordination to obtain federal and state permits associated with water withdrawal from the White Clay Creek, a National Wild and Scenic River, for the City of Newark.

Port Perry Bridge Environmental Assessment (EA), Allegheny County, PA - Assisted with EA documentation of environmental conditions and potential impacts related to proposed Norfolk Southern bridge modifications to fulfill NEPA, Army Corps of Engineers, and U.S. Coast Guard requirements.  Addressed historic resources and navigation on the Monongahela River.    


Environmental Health Specialist                                                                                                                                  March 1998 – July 1999

Chester County Health Department, County of Chester, West Chester, PA

Responsible for enforcement of the Pennsylvania Sewage Facilities Act (Act 537) for multiple municipalities.  Evaluated soil conditions, conducted permit reviews, and performed construction inspections of wastewater disposal systems and well installations. 


Water Resources Intern                                                                                                                           September 1997 – December 1997

Quality Forward, Asheville, NC

Assisted with implementation of a new Adopt-a-Stream program and coordinated volunteers for the annual stream cleanup. 


Entomology Intern                                                                                                                                                       May 1997 – August 1997

Stroud Water Research Center, Avondale, PA

Conducted macroinvertebrate identification for water quality studies. 


Volunteer Experience

Professional Development Officer/Committee Chair and Board Member; Committee Member            2009 – Current; 2007 - 2009

American Planning Association – Pennsylvania Chapter, Harrisburg, PA

Lead a nine person committee in organizing and assisting with training for professional planners and provide support to professional planners preparing for the AICP certification exam.  Training programs include an annual statewide training series, annual conference, participation in the Planning Webcast Consortium, and annual AICP exam prep sessions.  Specific efforts include:

Statewide Training Series - Presented annually since 2011; responsibilities include leading content development, budget, grant funding request, and coordination with the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED). 

Spring Planning Forums – Coordinated with DCED on this new training effort offered in two locations; led two sub-committees through content development and coordinated with partners and staff on budget and event logistics.  

Exam Prep – Annually organize a full-day session in the spring and conference session for the fall, including content development and review, recruitment of volunteers, and marketing of the sessions.  The spring session has grown to attract attendees from New Jersey, Maryland, and Virginia.  Additionally, provide content for an exam prep webpage on the APA-PA website. 

Exam Prep 3.0 - Assisted the American Planning Association with the update of their AICP exam preparation product, including content development and review across multiple functional topics and planning processes.  

Strategic Plan Development - Participation in the development and update of the organization’s strategic plan. 

Ethics Training – Annually ensure that ethics training has been provided; responsible for recruitment of speakers as well as development and presentation of sessions personally.  (See Presentations for additional information.)

Outreach – Distribution of training, AICP Exam, and ethics information via a column in the quarterly newsletter, Chapter email blasts and social media outlets, Chapter website, and Southeast Section blog. 



Advisory Board Member                                                                                                                                                               2012 – Current

Geography and Planning Department, West Chester University, West Chester, PA


Volunteer                                                                                                                                                                                  2007; 1999 - 2002

Brandywine Valley Association, West Chester, PA


Volunteer                                                                                                                                                                                              1995 - 1997

Volunteer Water Information Network, Asheville, NC


Volunteer                                                                                                                                                                        July 1992 – August 1992

Student Conservation Association, Glacier National Park, MT



American Planning Association (APA)

Pennsylvania Chapter of the American Planning Association (APA-PA)



American Institute of Certified Planners (#16045), 2006


Honors and Awards

APA-PA Irving Hand Excellence in Planning Professional Development Award (2011)

Elisha Mitchell Audubon Society Scholarship (1996)



S. Elks, 2009 – Present.  “PDO Corner”.  APA-PA Vantage Point Newsletter, quarterly issues. 

S. Elks, 2009.  “Natural Resource Protection Through Comprehensive Planning”.  County News, May/June 2009.

S. Elks, 2003.  Pennsylvania State Park and Land Trust Partnerships Regarding Conservation Easements (Thesis).

S. Elks and A. Hermely, 2001.  “Constructing Wetlands:  Following the Steps to Success”.  Township Engineer, Vol. 9 No. 2.


Presentations (selected)

AICP Exam Prep, 2009 – 2014, APA-PA

Advancing Planning Through Facilitation, 2013, APA-PA Conference

Scenic Field Methods, 2009 – 2012, West Chester University Geography Field Methods Class     

Ethics:  A Framework for Decision-Making, 2011, APA-PA Webinar   

The AICP Code of Ethics and Real World Scenarios, 2009, APA-PA Conference 

Ethics for the Planning Professional, 2009, APA-PA Southeast and Central Training

Ethical Decision Making for Planners, 2007, PPA Conference