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Land use key to Franklin Co. plan

May 02, 1999|By DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - Land use and transportation are two pillars of a new comprehensive plan the Franklin County Planning Commission will consider at its Thursday meeting.

"The purpose of the plan is to organize short-term action with a long-term perspective," consultant Charlie Schmehl of Urban Research and Development Corp. said at last Thursday's public meeting on the plan. About three dozen county and municipal officials and residents attended the meeting.

While intended to serve as a guide for local governments and the private sector over the next 15 years, Schmehl said the $165,000 plan is "advisory."

"It has no force of law," he said.

"We'd really like to emphasize farmland preservation," Schmehl said. Although the county has purchased development rights on more than 2,000 acres of its best farmland, Schmehl said that is only about 3 percent of the county's farmland.

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Besides expanding preservation programs with more county funding, he said local governments should consider zoning that limits development "in areas where there's long-term potential for farmland preservation."

Concentrating development into smaller areas served by public water and sewer is one way to save farmland. Schmehl said it takes 200 acres to accommodate 100 homes using septic systems and wells. The same number of homes can be built on 30 acres served by public utilities.

"We believe there are enough commercial segments already developed in the county," according to Schmehl. He said revitalizing downtown commercial districts can lessen the pressure for strip malls in rural areas.

Maintaining urban residential districts can also save farmland from being turned into housing developments, Schmehl said.

"The catch phrase now is to avoid sprawl - where development jumps from where it should be to where it shouldn't be," he said.

The transportation component has dozens of recommendations for improving traffic flow and safety and encouraging alternative forms of transportation. Most of them are included in municipal comprehensive plans.

Consultant Jeff Greene of Orth-Rodgers Associates said the plan recommends widening Interstate 81 to six lanes, improving the eight interchanges in the county and adding one north of Chambersburg at Walker Road and another south of the borough at Kriner Road.

"We want one project off," Greene Township Supervisor Paul Ambrose said about the Walker Road exit. The township has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars fighting the interchange, which was funded more than a decade ago.

Ambrose and Bert Vagnerini of Chambersburg questioned the validity of traffic studies used in the comprehensive plan.

The plan also recommends improvements to other routes, including widening U.S. 30 to five lanes both east and west of Chambersburg.

Greene outlined proposals to relieve traffic congestion around the Chambersburg, Waynesboro and Greencastle areas. Having the proposals in the plan could mean the difference between securing state and federal funding for the projects.

"Once the county adopts the plan, if something isn't in there, the state may not consider it," said Robert R. Peiffer, chairman of the Washington Township Planning and Zoning Commission.

County Senior Planner Sherri Clayton said the Planning Commission could vote this week to recommend approval of the plan by the county commissioners or table it for further revisions.

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