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Township growth plan to be presented by panel

March 13, 2005|by RICHARD F. BELISLE

waynesboro@herald-mail.com

WAYNESBORO, Pa. - Six Washington Township residents have been meeting almost weekly in their homes since October studying ways to bring the township's zoning and subdivision regulations more in line with the growth the area is seeing.

The group, the Citizens Zoning Advisory Committee, will present a first draft of its work to the township's planning commission Monday night.

The supervisors sought citizen volunteers to serve on the committee.

"The supervisors felt that some of the zoning, subdivision and land development ordinances on the books are no longer appropriate for the kind of growth the township is facing now and will face in the future," said John Gorman, chairman of the committee.

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The other members are Janet Baxter, Elena Kehoe, Maggie Rovelstad, Vernon Fox and Bea Boccalandro.

"We're running the risk of losing what we love in Washington Township. We're worried that our area is disappearing," Gorman said. "Our goal is to support and update the ordinances to protect what we have. Growth is coming at an accelerated rate."

He said the committee and the township are not trying to slow growth, only have ordinances that can keep pace with the development.

"We're playing catch-up," Kehoe said. "We need to bring the ordinances up to handle what we have coming here now before we can establish laws to keep ahead of the growth."

Township Manager Michael Christopher said the township supervisors felt that with the rezoning of more than 1,000 acres of contingent farmland in late 2003 the public has grown increasingly concerned.

The rezonings paved the way for a new shopping center anchored by Wal-Mart and Lowe's stores to be built this year. The rest of the rezoned farmland will be dedicated to residential development with as many as 2,000 new homes planned.

Those rezonings, plus a symposium held last year by the Franklin County Planning Commission on the subject of controlling growth in the right way, prompted the supervisors to try to get citizens involved in the process and help the planning commission update the ordinances, Christopher said.

The committee scoured the Internet to find zoning ordinances from other municipalities, mostly in Pennsylvania, but also in Maryland, West Virginia, Colorado and North Carolina, Gorman said.

Members traveled to some municipalities and found information in state offices in Harrisburg, he said.

Kehoe singled out townships in Chester, Bucks and Lancaster counties with adopting proactive ordinances to promote smart growth.

"The supervisors and planning commission should get credit for coming to realize that comprehensive changes are needed to preserve this community," Kehoe said. "Washington Township may become a bigger community and a different community, but we want to protect it, keep it people-friendly, promote strong neighborhoods and have community-oriented developments.

"It's a complicated issue and the supervisors have a lot on their plate already," she said.

"We need to bolster the ordinances to protect our natural areas," Gorman said. "We need to make things like sidewalks, pathways and greenways mandatory requirements in developments."

"What's in the township's comprehensive plan is ideal, but we're getting so far away from it," Rovelstad said.

On Monday, the committee will summarize its work to date in its report to the planning commission.

"We'll back it up with specific references to improve existing ordinances plus show them model ordinances from other municipalities," said Gorman, who is running for a township supervisor seat in the May 17 primary.

'We've done a lot of research so we know what's out there," he said.

The planning commission meets in the meeting room of the township office building at 7 p.m. The meeting is open.

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