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Fulton Co. unveils plan for future

September 14, 2006|by JENNIFER FITCH

The concept of implementing zoning hung over a public meeting Wednesday in Fulton County, Pa., where municipal officials were able to leaf through a comprehensive plan draft hundreds of pages long.

When the process of comprehensive planning launched in early 2005, it seemed several of the townships were willing to proceed with enacting zoning, County Planning Director Mary K. Seville said.

The idea initially garnered support following an informational meeting this spring, but that support waned, according to Timothy Staub, the plan's project manager through contracted engineering firm Rettew.

"They still don't want to tell people what to do with their land," Seville said, explaining why the municipal officials have turned away from zoning.

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The draft of the comprehensive plan, which is expected to be adopted later this year with few revisions, gives municipal planners an infrastructure map for the future, but no zoning.

Bonnie Mellott Keefer, chairwoman of the Fulton County Commissioners, stood up in support of a zoning at the meeting, a move she said might hurt her chances of getting re-elected.

"Zoning equates to protection. Zoning puts us in the driver's seat," she said. Keefer maintained that zoning would "put teeth" into the comprehensive plan, which, she reminded the crowd, gives municipal officials no legal protection over what development occurs and how.

In the draft plan, Staub designated six growth areas to concentrate development. The Borough of McConnellsburg, which is the only municipality in the county with zoning, is designated as a town center, and five areas in outlying townships are designated as hamlets.

Twelve of the county's 13 municipalities participated in the comprehensive plan, which was awarded approximately $76,000 in Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development grant money. The Borough of Valley-Hi did not participate.

Staub predicted the 12 municipalities would add 5,000 residents by 2030. The county saw its population grow from 13,837 in 1990 to 14,261 in 2000.

The lack of infrastructure in Fulton County and its ridgeline barriers have protected it from the rapid growth seen in neighboring Franklin County and south of the Mason-Dixon Line, Staub said.




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The issue: Approximately 70 Fulton County, Pa., residents gathered in February 2005 to scribble their vision of the county's future on butcher paper. Since then, a contracted engineering firm has drafted a comprehensive plan that is intended to be a road map for the next 20 years.

What's new: A public hearing on Wednesday gave municipal officials the opportunity to further revise the draft. The topics of zoning and land development and subdivision ordinances again dominated the discussion.

What's next: The public is invited to an Oct. 25 public hearing at the Fulton Theatre. The plan is expected to be approved by the end of the year.

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