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Williamsport loses chance at state grant

October 15, 2002|by LAURA ERNDE

laurae@herald-mail.com

Williamsport officials expect to lose out on thousands of dollars in state grants because the Town Council failed to adopt a new comprehensive plan seven years ago.

Councilman James G. McCleaf said he recently learned from Washington County Planning Director Bob Arch that the state denied the town's Program Open Space requests this year due to its out-of-date comprehensive plan. The plan is supposed to spell out the town's land-use policies.

The town drafted a plan in 1995, but for some reason the council never voted to approve it.

"I don't know how it fell through the cracks. I really don't," Assistant Mayor Walter W. Tracy Jr. said at Monday's Mayor and Council meeting. Tracy was on the council at the time.

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The 1995 plan cannot be adopted until it's changed to comply with the 1997 Smart Growth Act, William R. Atkinson, a regional planner for the Maryland Department of Planning, told the council Monday.

Atkinson said his department won't be available to help the town update its plan until next spring after it assists five other Western Maryland jurisdictions in updating their comprehensive plans. Those towns are on a six-year review cycle, he said.

Meanwhile, the town could hire a consultant, he said.

Council members balked at the cost, which Atkinson estimated at $30,000 to $50,000.

McCleaf said the largest Program Open Space grant the town has received was about $30,000.

The town had planned to seek money to refurbish and display Civil War-era cannons that are now in storage, he said.

Atkinson encouraged the town to submit a new Program Open Space application despite being out of compliance.

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