NEWS

Committee revives Comprehensive Plan for Greencastle-Antrim area

PAT FRIDGEN
FRANK CHLEBNIKOW

The Comprehensive Plan as written is ready for review and adoption by the Antrim Township Board of Supervisors. Frank Chlebnikow, Senior Community Planner with Rettew Associates, notified community representatives on the status of the plan Oct. 29. The plan had been on hold since township management was restructured in August 2008. That massive change in personnel is the cause of a snag in the Comprehensive Plan today.

Chlebnikow addressed CP committee members at Greencastle Borough Hall, in a meeting called by Antrim. Present for the township were administrator Brad Graham, zoning officer Sylvia House, and supervisor James Byers. Curtis Myers was absent. Committee members present on behalf of the borough were manager Kenneth Womack, and councilmen Paul Schemel and Duane Kinzer. And sitting in for Greencastle-Antrim School District was school board member William Thorne. Charles McClain was absent.

Chlebnikow said the plan was at the point that the Franklin County Planning Commission could also review it. There would be a 45-day review period during which local citizens could attend a G-A public hearing. The entire planning process began in 2005, with public input at a series of meetings in 2007.

"Now it appears time to wrap things up," he said. "Everything is ready."

He went on to comment about the governmental changes in Antrim.

"The change in leadership happened at an inopportune time. Usually new leadership makes changes to the plan at the end of 10 years, but this turnover occurred before it was approved. The thinking that the previous administration had may not be in alignment with the current administration."

House agreed. "We are thinking not to do Conservation by Design. We want to eliminate it and do other conservation practices and reduce the number of zones."

Chlebnikow said a change in policy did not affect just one part of the plan, but trickled throughout the entire document. A change in land use also affected transportation, housing, utilities and other pieces in the report. A partner firm, Traffic Planning and Design, would get reinvolved if needed.

Byers did not favor revising much of the CP. "The board of supervisors has not had deep discussions on change."

While the plan could be adopted within four to six months as is, Chlebnikow said any changes would push that back. The prepared document considers Greencastle and Antrim as one community. If the township changed its land use plans, that could affect the borough.

House said she was told the township wanted to consolidate its zones, and that would be discussed by the board and its Planning Commission in November or December. She had held off on ordering new zoning maps, priced at $10,000, until Antrim decided what to do. Because the supervisors indicated they would be rewriting ordinances, House didn't want the plan adopted if Antrim's changes would not be in line with the CP. She feared the differences could land Antrim in court. Chlebnikow explained that the plan itself was a policy document, but municipalities could be sued over how it was implemented.

He added that it was expensive to alter the plan, perhaps several thousand dollars. "You need to control the number of meetings; the budget shouldn't be open-ended. Last minute requests cause problems. You don't want to go through the billing processes again. It's been done."

Byers wanted the plan finished. "These zoning talks won't happen quickly."

Everyone on the committee pondered whether election results Nov. 3 would affect the CP. At the urging of Womack, a timeline was set in motion. The committee will meet again in February, after each municipality has had time to seat newly-elected officials. He personally didn't see Greencastle making any changes to the CP, no matter who came onto council.

Acknowledging the distractions facing the municipalities, Chlebnikow assured the committee, "We've always been there and will continue to be there for you, however invisible or transparent you want us to be. In February everyone should know of any changes."

To date, the outlays for the Comprehensive Plan have been Antrim and G-ASD $10,287 each, and Greencastle $6,858. The balance of the $94,000 project was paid through grants.

The last comprehensive plan was adopted in June 1992 and looked into the future as far as 2005 and 2010.

Tidbits from the plan

The concept of the Comprehensive Plan is to chart the course for municipal growth and change for the next decade. It set goals for community character, land use, natural and historic resources, transportation, housing, parks and recreation, community facilities, planning and coordination between public and private entities, economic development, and downtown Greencastle.

A few findings

*Lack of emergency care (medical) and emergency services (police).

*Twenty percent of households are burdened by housing costs. In Greencastle they are renters, in Antrim they are homeowners.

*Of 252 random wells tested, 164 were contaminated by coliform, 58 by fecal coliform, 58 by nitrate-nitrogen.

*Downtown has a poor use of existing parking resources.

*The post office does not match the character of other buildings on the street.

*Conservation by Design is a proactive approach to preserve open space.

*Antrim has 13 primary land classifications and eight reserve areas to manage future growth.

*Greencastle has eight land classifications and two reserve areas for flexibility on future growth.

A few goals

*Encourage a land use pattern that provides a contiguous pattern of farmland.

*Downtown expansion on the blocks north and south of East Baltimore Street between Allison and Ridge, and perhaps the entire length of Route 16.

*U.S. 11 and I-81 can be opportunities to get people downtown.

*The Main Street Approach, pairing historic preservation and economic development, can revitalize a community.

*A schedule for capital expenditures five to 10 years out allows budgeting and spending priorities to match the CP.

*Educate residents on the impacts associated with agriculture that may be considered nuisances by people moving in.

*Encourage walkable neighborhoods with pedestrian amenities.

*Allow for housing that is affordable to a variety of incomes.