Recreation change backed by council

Borough Council members hope to change current policy to secure bigger parcels of land from developers for parks.

Borough Council members hope to change current policy to secure bigger parcels of land from developers for parks.

December 03, 2002|by STACEY DANZUSO

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - The Chambersburg Borough Council supports a change in its recreation policy that will enable the borough to secure larger parcels of land from developers for neighborhood parks.

Assistant Borough Solicitor Welton Fischer presented a new policy to the council last week that doubles to .02 of an acre the amount of land developers must set aside per single-family house to be built in the development.

Developers would still be able to pay a fee in lieu of setting aside land, but that now equates to fair market value for the amount of acreage it would have to set aside. Previously, developers paid $200 per unit.


The requirements come into play for any subdivision in which there are five units or more.

"This is a new concept to get away from small isolated tracts that we have had problems with," Fischer said.

Officials have complained that developers were handing over the least desirable pieces of land to the borough for recreation.

Years ago, when the borough adopted its current recreation plan, its goal was to raise enough money to help buy equipment, so it set the $200 figure. It was never established with the concept of buying land, Fischer said, but that has changed.

In August, council members agreed to shift the recreation philosophy toward creating neighborhood parks on par with Mike Waters Park on Second Street, rather than the mini-parks of past decades.

Before the council can formally adopt the new policy it must hold a public hearing, probably in January.

The new requirements will give the borough more muscle in letting developers know what it needs as well as flexibility in planning for future recreation needs, according to Herb Dolaway, recreation superintendent.

Dolaway has said the trend for years was to have small parks within walking distance of all residents, but that has shifted in favor of parks greater than 6 acres to allow for baseball, softball and soccer fields, which require 1.2 to 1.7 acres each.

Changes to the ordinance were spurred in part by two parcels developers of the Gabler Tract in the north end of the borough plan to deed to the borough for recreation. Both parcels are oddly shaped and relatively undesirable for recreation, council members and residents said.

The Planning and Zoning Commission has spent months developing the new policy.

The policy also has stringent requirements about the land's characteristics.

For example, no more than 25 percent of the tract can be in a flood plain or have a slope greater than 3 percent. It also should be accessible from a public street or adjoin and become part of an already existing public recreation area.

If a developer opts to pay a fee in lieu of land, the borough and subdivider can agree on a fair market value. The borough will have three years to use the funds for recreation purposes or it must be returned.

The policy changes, which will become part of the borough's land development ordinance, are not only for residential development.

When the subdivision involves only commercial uses, the developer should dedicate an area of about 5 percent of the total development.

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