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Dealing with development

January 26, 2006

Ready or not, here it comes.

The old line from the children's game of hide-and-seek could be the quote of the week in Antrim Township, Pa.

That's where township supervisors who wanted to stop development until they got some growth-control ordinances in place got an unpleasant surprise on Tuesday.

That's when John Lisko, the town's solicitor, told the supervisors that moratoriums are illegal in Pennsylvania. If the supervisors were to enact one, Lisko said, "we'd all be sued."

The only alternative is to do as much as possible to get ready for development - and do it as quickly as possible.

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Moratoriums in Pennsylvania are illegal because of a 2001 state Supreme Court decision that held that there was no statutory basis for them.

In May of last year, the Philadelphia Business Journal reported that Rep. Bob Freeman, D-Northampton, had introduced a bill to allow local governments to use temporary moratoriums to give them time to revise their rules on growth and development.

Freeman's Web site said the bill has 28 bipartisan co-sponsors and has been referred to the House Local Government Committee.

Until such a bill passes, local governments are apparently on their own. Fortunately, we have a few suggestions.

It's difficult for us to believe that at least one township in the state hasn't successfully dealt with this problem - and perhaps even gone through a court test of its new growth-control ordinances.

It shouldn't be difficult to find one or more through the Pennsylvania League of Cities and Municipalities. Once the appropriate government is identified, Antrim Township could review its ordinances, then "borrow" whatever fits.

Some personal diplomacy with developers wouldn't hurt, either, particularly if they are local people.

The purchasers of any new homes will want to know that schools and other services are available for their families. Assuring developers that they will have a more marketable product if chaos can be avoided should be a convincing argument.

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