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Washington Twp. building boom slows

February 25, 2009|By JENNIFER FITCH

WAYNESBORO, Pa. -- In 2006, Washington Township was leading the growth boom in Franklin County, Pa., with construction of 142 living units started during the 12-month period.

In 2008, that number was cut nearly in half, with 74 units started in what the township manager identified as a year reminiscent of those before the housing bubble.

Although the township budget has been based on average years, rather than extraordinary ones like 2006, the revenue funds that carry over every year are diminishing. In other words, the savings account has taken a hit.

Township Manager Mike Christopher predicted "belt tightening" in 2010 if revenues stay the same or drop further.

"It affects the revenues primarily. The biggest area where we've seen a significant drop is in the impact fee fund," Christopher said, explaining that impact fees are assessed on building permits issued in targeted high-growth areas.

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Impact fees are used to pay for the construction of Washington Township Boulevard, a $16.7 million relief route being built north of Waynesboro.

Washington Township stands to gain revenues several times from an individual lot being developed. For example, a farm being converted into houses could generate a real estate transfer tax from the developer, another real estate transfer tax of .5 percent when each lot is sold, an impact fee of $3,147 when each lot's building permit is issued, sewer and water tap fees, and property taxes once the houses are assessed.

Christopher said the code enforcement and zoning office is using the economic slowdown to prepare for the next housing boom. It has joined with the planning commission and township supervisors to look at possible new development regulations.

"What it does from the plus side is give the staff time to get themselves organized," the township manager said.

Washington Township saw a hefty increase in the number of multifamily units developed in 2007. Those 75 units, primarily in Zullinger, Pa., boosted the total new living units to 143 that year.

Across the county, there were 1,241 housing starts in 2006. That number dropped to 735 in 2008, according to published reports.

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