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Some areas in Franklin County lack tools to prepare for growth

July 26, 2005|by DON AINES

chambersburg@herald-mail.com

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - Regulatory tools to control development are available to municipalities in Franklin County, Pa., but elected officials have to summon the willpower to use them, according to comments made Monday at a meeting of the Greater Chambersburg 21st Century Partnership.

Among those tools are zoning ordinances, but several townships have not adopted them, according to County Planning Director Phil Tarquino.

Six of the county's seven boroughs have zoning ordinances, the exception being Orrstown, which has about 200 residents, Tarquino said. The townships east of or straddling Interstate 81 have zoning, while the generally less-populated townships to the west do not, he said.

"We have a residential tsunami heading our way," John Van Horn, executive director of the Letterkenny Industrial Development Authority, said at the meeting. "I don't know if the municipalities will have the tools in place when it gets here."

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Last week, a committee of the Franklin County Council of Governments presented a set of proposals for the county's delegation to the Pennsylvania General Assembly to consider. Those included enabling local government to enact impact fees, excise taxes and construction moratoriums to aid high-growth areas in paying for the schools, roads, utilities and public services needed to accommodate the influx of new residents.

Joint municipal planning, intergovernmental agreements, zoning ordinances and other measures regulating land use, however, can run afoul of political hurdles, some at the meeting said.

"It's hard to tell a farmer you can't sell a farm to a developer," said Steven Spray, a real estate broker and member of the partnership, which examines issues facing the Chambersburg area. Regulating growth is "going to take enormous political guts," he said.

"Some of the tools can only be used if we come together," said St. Thomas Township Supervisor Frank Stearn.

"If all we're looking at is regulating the public, it won't go down well," said Van Horn. Local governments need to find out which measures the public will support "and respond to that," he said.

"A community doesn't respect municipal boundaries," Philip E. Robbins, a policy specialist for the Governor's Center for Local Government Services, told the partnership meeting. In Pennsylvania's 2,565 cities, boroughs and townships, and 501 school districts, people can live in one municipality but travel to others for work, worship, shopping and schooling, Robbins said.

Transportation, environmental and economic development issues cross municipal lines and local governments have to work together to solve them, he said.

"Governance is what pins us to geography," he said.

Some local governments are making the effort to work cooperatively.

Fannett, Letterkenny and Lurgan townships are working on a joint comprehensive plan, Tarquino said after the meeting. Greencastle, Antrim Township and the Greencastle-Antrim School District are working on a joint comprehensive plan for the borough and township, he said.

"One of the goals is to see how commercial or industrial development can be directed to the area to stabilize the tax base," Greencastle Borough Manager Kenneth Myers said of the discussions. That part of the county experienced the greatest population growth from 1990 to 2000, according to U.S. Census figures, and Myers said residential development is straining schools, roads, utilities and public services.

The Pennsylvania Economy League is studying the Chambersburg Area School District's enrollment projections in the borough and five surrounding townships, said Superintendent Edwin Sponseller. After years of low growth, the student population increased 3 percent in 2004-05 and "we seem to be ahead of where we were last year," he said.

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