Plan fights sprawl, guards farmland

July 13, 1999|By DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - Now that Franklin County has a new comprehensive plan to guide farmland preservation, economic development and transportation into the 21st century, Commissioner G. Warren Elliott said officials must work to "prevent this from being a document that collects dust on a shelf."After two years of work and 56 meetings, including seven public hearings, the Board of Commissioners on Tuesday unanimously approved the plan, which had not been updated since 1977.

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Elliott said 150 copies of the plan will be distributed to municipalities, libraries, schools and economic development groups, along with 5,000 or more copies of a comprehensive plan summary.

A private group, the Greater Chambersburg 2000 Partnership, has even approved an $8,000 grant to the County Planning Commission to promote the plan, according to Elliott.

"This will not be a static document," Elliott said. Planning Commission staff will review the plan annually and update it every three to five years.


"We are planning to have numerous workshops for municipalities on transportation, land use and infrastructure," County Planning Director Phil Tarquino said. Elliott said the county will work with local governments to obtain grants to implement the plan.

The plan identifies the county's prime agricultural lands and established agricultural security areas. Elliott said townships need to expand the agricultural security areas to create zones of contiguous farmland where farmers are protected from ordinances hampering normal agricultural operations.

"Even farmers don't want to preserve farms in isolation. That scenario doesn't make sense to anyone," Elliott said.

All but two of Franklin County's 15 townships have security areas totalling more than 88,000 acres. Eighteen farms totalling about 3,000 acres have been preserved in perpetuity through the county's Agricultural Preservation Program.

"We don't want to extend sewer and water service to those areas" because it increases pressure for residential and commercial development, Tarquino said.

Elliott said the plan emphasizes redevelopment of borough and village centers, instead of consuming more land with strip malls, residential developments and industrial parks.

"We're trying to guide growth to where there is the infrastructure for growth," he said. At an April 29 public hearing, one consultant noted it takes 200 acres to support 100 homes in an area not served by municipal sewer and water service. The same number of homes could be built on 30 acres served by utilities.

Transportation improvements advocated by local municipalities are incorporated in the plan. Washington Township Manager Michael Christopher said it addresses issues including relief routes around Waynesboro, Pa., and signals along Pa. 16.

"I think the language is much more objective and neutral now," said Greene Township Supervisor Paul Ambrose. For more than a decade, the township has opposed an interchange off of Interstate 81 north of Exit 6.

"There's no specific location that is pinpointed," Ambrose said. The plan, however, does recommend constructing interchanges both north and south of Exit 6 at U.S. 30.

While Franklin County grew in population by about 5.2 percent to 127,000 in the first seven years of the decade, the plan recognizes increased population pressure from counties to the south, east and north.

Perry, Cumberland and Adams counties in Pennsylvania all had higher growth rates from 1990 to 1997. Washington County, Md., was slightly higher at 5.6 percent, but Maryland's Frederick and Carroll counties both experienced double-digit population growth this decade.

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