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Growth's impact felt most at the local levels

February 19, 2007|by JENNIFER FITCH

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - Elected officials and others in Franklin County, Pa., continue to lament the impact of development on roads, schools, and water and sewer systems, while saying that state law affords them few options to protect the infrastructure.

Three state representatives last year sponsored a bill that could establish impact fees, increase the real estate transfer tax and create temporary moratoriums on development in designated counties.

Now, two of the bill's cheerleaders are out of office and the remaining champion's political party is in the minority at the capital.

"If we're not going to get support from the delegation, ... we have more hopes of influencing Democratic bills," Jordan Conner said.

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Conner is a legislative assistant to state Rep. Rob Kauffman, R-Franklin/Cumberland, who introduced the bill with former state Reps. Patrick E. Fleagle, R-Franklin, and Stephen Maitland, R-Franklin/Adams.

"As it stands, we have no support," Conner said. "It's not going to be reintroduced through Franklin County."

First-year state Rep. Todd A. Rock, R-Franklin, who ousted Fleagle in the last election, said he was concerned the bill as written - designed from Maryland legislation - was "one size fits all."

"I just met with six or eight Realtors the other day," Rock said. "We're looking to reintroduce that again, maybe just in a different form."

The impact fees seemed excessive, and the legislation needed to be better tailored for the parts of a county that don't have rapid growth, Rock said.

"When it was introduced before, it just got zero support in Harrisburg," Rock said.

Maitland's successor, Rep. Dan Moul, R-Franklin/Adams, did not return calls seeking comment.

Growth tools that allow "townships and boroughs to manage their own destinies" will be one of the two major issues presented to local legislators at a Franklin County Council of Governments meeting Wednesday, COG President Bob Thomas said.

"We're going to ask them for help, whether it's that bill or not," Thomas said.

Washington Township, Pa., uses the two growth tools provided by the Municipal Planning Code, Township Manager Mike Christopher said. Those are impact fees for transportation and recreation fees for the purchase of recreational equipment, he said.

"In Pennsylvania, there is no impact fee to fund schools," Christopher said. "(The bill) would be a tool for Pennsylvanians to have new growth to pay for the associated needs in the schools."

His township set records in 2006 with 536 properties changing ownership, generating almost $515,000 for the municipality through the realty transfer tax. The tax revenue was up $137,000 from 2005.

Last year's average property sale price, $195,850, was an increase of almost $70,000 from 2005 in Washington Township, he said.

"We expect '07 to be much more like '05," Christopher said.

Staff writer Don Aines contributed to this story.

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