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Leaders hold forum on land use

May 22, 2004|By BONNIE H. BRECHBILL

Municipal, economic, education and agricultural leaders of Franklin County gathered Friday for Franklin County's first Land Use Forum.

The forum, at the Hayes Development and Conference Center in the Cumberland Valley Business Park, was proposed earlier this year by G. Warren Elliott, chairman of the Board of County Commissioners.

"Land use will be the issue that dominates this county over the next decade," Elliott said.

Ed McMahon, vice president and director of land-use programs for the nonprofit Conservation Fund in Arlington, Va., discussed alternatives to current development patterns that are more attractive, efficient, profitable and environmentally sound.

As an attorney, community planner, lecturer and author, McMahon works to improve both land conservation and land development practices through programs that balance economic and environmental goals.

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"The unique character of towns is disappearing," McMahon said. "We preserve landmarks and clean up air and water pollution, but we are losing our sense of place. The roads outside any American city all look the same. What makes your hometown different from my hometown?"

Growth is inevitable and desirable, McMahon said.

"Progress does not demand denigrated surroundings," he said. "Figure out where not to develop. Every township needs a long-range conservation plan."

According to McMahon, smart, quality growth depends on three goals - a healthy environment, a vigorous economy and a vibrant community.

New construction should enhance community character, McMahon said.

He showed slides of a McDonald's in New Hyde Park, N.Y., that is in a 19th century house. A new McDonald's in Stowe, Vt., was built in the New England-style of architecture.

"Sameness is a minus, not a plus," he said.

L. Michael Ross, president of the Franklin County Area Development Corporation, said that Franklin County is at an important crossroads.

"We have an opportunity to shape the future, but the window is closing very rapidly," he said. "The challenge is not to create growth, but to manage it."

Franklin County Commissioner Cheryl Plummer said that McMahon recognized the good things happening locally and "gave us the tools to build to that vision. We can incorporate businesses people want into our historic areas without destroying them. I loved the idea of starting with one building and one project at a time."

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