THE MAYOR'S REPORT: Information about planning

Ben Thomas Jr., Greencastle mayor
Ben Thomas Jr., Greencastle mayor

So as you know I author my report to you on Sundays. Guess what (as the grandchildren say all the time) it’s snowing! I’ve been working most of the day from home with snow emergency declarations and logistics. Tina and I made two pots of coffee so far. So ... join me, grab a cup of coffee and enjoy our conversation. We change the clocks March 14 with spring arriving March 20. Now that’s exciting.

Two weeks ago, I wrote that I would discuss planning. That’s coming up…but first — a special thank you to our municipal employees that keep our services operating 24/7. The lone police officer working today had a busy one. Public works pre-treated our streets. Sewer and water operations were on the job also this weekend. In another issue, I’ll write about is what these important men and women do “behind the scenes,” their training, their expertise in what they do. All of their duties are very important for our health, safety and welfare.

OK ... about that planning thing. I begin with a disclaimer: Always consult the borough office, zoning officer, regarding your project, subdivision, land development plan, etc. and make sure you’re moving in the right direction for permitting and your own logistics. The borough’s website is full of information for permitting, application forms, inspection procedures, and ordinances. The website is: greencastlepa.gov.

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Now, Greencastle (1.6 square miles) is nearly built out. Each municipality in Pennsylvania (all 2,562 of them) has its own ordinances, the appropriate municipal code (ours is the Pa. Borough Code) and the Pa. Municipalities Planning Code. These are laws all must follow. So you want to do a project? I suggest you write down what you want to do and draw a diagram of your project. Submit this to the zoning officer for review along with your contact information. On July 1, 2004, the Pa. legislature adopted the Uniform Construction Code which required inspections of a building or remodeling project. Prior to 2004 the only building inspection needed was an electrical inspection. Today, there may be from one to seven inspections depending on the complexity of the project. More inspections may be needed for deficient, unsafe work. Greencastle gives you a choice of which third party inspection agency you would like to contract for your project. All of this information is on the website: permits and zoning.

In a community like Greencastle that is nearly built out, good planning is reuse or reinventing current buildings and properties. The former Hicks Chevrolet, Keystone Ford, and Greencastle Antique Mall properties are prime examples as they have been or are being repurposed. What positive economic engines for Greencastle. Available utilities are very important. Look how Greencastle’s utilities have aided Antrim Township to significantly grow their tax base since the early 1960s with Corning Glass, Grove Manufacturing and many other areas. That’s the Pennsylvania system of commonwealth government.

So what about land use planning ... repurposing land and buildings? This doesn’t happen very often in Greencastle. Ordinances require a subdivision and/or land development plan submission to the borough and planning commission. This is where you need a land professional who will draw up the plans where professional seals (certifications) are needed. Reviews and recommendations are conducted at a public meeting by the Greencastle Planning Commission. Franklin County’s Planning Office will also review and make written comments. Utility agencies must review as well to make sure these services can accommodate the project. After these reviews are completed borough council has the authority to approve or deny plans at a public meeting. Approved plans are recorded at the Franklin County Courthouse and are a matter of public record. An example of a subdivision plan is a proposed housing development. A land development plan includes the land use; building or buildings proposed; storm water management; utilities; driveways for ingress and egress; street improvements; pedestrian access; lighting; and other requirements as enumerated in the borough ordinance.

Check out the zoning ordinance chapter on the website for subdivisions and land developments plans. This is why I stated two weeks ago that I pay little attention to rumors until the above described formal plans are submitted and the review process begins. Then the facts are available to the public.

You know ... I’ve rather enjoyed writing about planning. Remember my disclaimer? Always check with the Greencastle zoning officer who will assist you with your project.

Oops! My coffee needs warmed up and it’s time to go shovel some snow! Be safe and please stay well. Remember ... we are blessed!