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Getting in the zone

Fulton Co. officials taking bus tour to update zoning plan

Fulton Co. officials taking bus tour to update zoning plan

September 13, 2005|by DON AINES

McCONNELLSBURG, PA.

chambersburg@herald-mail.com

They probably already know their way around, but many of Fulton County's elected officials will be on the same bus today, touring most of its municipalities to figure out where they are headed.

"The idea, as much as anything, is to provide information to the consultants drafting the plan," County Commissioner Daniel Swain said of the project to update the county's comprehensive plan.

A dozen of the county's 13 municipalities have agreed to participate in crafting the plan, the exception being the small borough of Valley High, Swain said.

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"This is their opportunity to educate the consultant," said Tim Staub of RETTEW Associates of Lancaster, Pa., the firm hired to update the plan.

Staub said consultants from his firm will be joined on the 48-passenger bus by members of the board of county commissioners, township supervisors, representatives of the business community and officials from the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation and Department of Community and Economic Development.

The new joint comprehensive plan will examine the county's future needs in areas such as transportation, land use, watershed protection, water and sewer, and public services, Staub said. The update is scheduled to be completed by early 2007, he said.

One area Swain said he wants to look seriously at is countywide zoning, something few of Pennsylvania's 67 counties have attempted. McConnellsburg is the only municipality in the county with a zoning ordinance, he said.

"There are ways that we can do zoning that are not too intrusive. ... Subdivision ordinances only go so far," Swain said.

Most municipalities do not have the staff to administer zoning ordinances, something the county could accomplish with the assistance of the municipalities, he said.

"That's going to be one of our major educational hurdles," Staub said of pitching the benefits of countywide or regional zoning. The joint plan, he said, will focus on regional cooperation and planning rather than each township and borough tackling growth issues separately.

"In Pennsylvania, the municipalities are the ones that have ultimate jurisdiction on planning matters," Swain said. He said he is encouraged that all but one of the local governments wants to work together on a plan for the future of the county, which has a population of about 14,500 people.

The county's road network will be another area officials need to take a close look at, Swain said. Some new construction will be needed in the future, along with repairs to keep the system functioning efficiently, he said.

The county also is beginning to see increased development in the southern municipalities, particularly from people migrating from the Baltimore and Washington, D.C., areas, although on a much smaller scale than in neighboring Franklin County, Staub said.

The bus tour begins at the Fulton County Courthouse and ends in McConnellsburg at the Fulton County Medical Center, Staub said.

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