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Franklin Co. officials address Pa. delegation

February 22, 2007|by DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - Franklin County's state House and Senate delegation heard from local government officials on the need for legislation to help manage growth, but the shift in power in Harrisburg last fall will make achieving that goal difficult.

Last year, former state representative Stephen Maitland introduced legislation to allow municipalities in designated "growth counties" to impose building excise fees, moratoriums and other restrictions to deal with rapid development and the strains it places on schools, roads and other public works. The legislation failed to pass and died at the end of the session.

"Municipalities in Franklin County need help to deal with growth. Some more than others," Washington Township Manager Michael Christopher said Wednesday at the Franklin County Council of Governments meeting. "Not surprisingly, many groups came out against this bill," he said of bill introduced by Maitland, who lost his bid for re-election in November.

The transportation impact fee which is allowed in Pennsylvania has to be "more user-friendly," Christopher said. A way also must be found so that new development "pays a fair share of the cost of infrastructure and school improvements," he said.

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Maitland's bill, based on measures adopted in Washington and Frederick counties in Maryland, would have allowed excise fees of $13,000 to $26,000 per unit, depending on the size of the development, an idea that the legislators said will not work.

Any excise fee will have to be "formula-driven ... rather than just some artificial inflated number," state Sen. Terry Punt said. Fees would have to be based on a formula measuring the impact each development would have on a municipality or school district, he said.

"There is definitely not widespread support on impact fees," said state Rep. Rob Kauffman, R-Franklin-Cumberland. Any growth legislation emerging from the House likely will be introduced by Democrats and Republicans will have to work within that framework, he said.

Impact fees could make it harder for young people to find affordable housing, state Rep. Dan Moul, R-Adams-Franklin, said. People moving into his district from metropolitan areas have already caused home prices to soar, he said.

County Commissioner Bob Thomas said impact fees would not affect existing housing and could encourage people to buy existing homes.

Some expensive projects are not specifically tied to growth, state Rep. Todd Rock, R-Franklin, said. Waynesboro Area Senior High School is being renovated and expanded despite it having fewer students than when he graduated.

"Those who are here should not be burdened with paying the cost of those who are coming," said state Rep. Mark Keller, R-Perry/Franklin. However, he agreed with Punt that an arbitrary number for an impact fee will not work.

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