- Last Updated on Wednesday, 25 August 2010 18:10
- Published on Wednesday, 25 August 2010 18:10
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The Westmoreland Planning Commissioners, District Planning Office staff and nine county residents worked non-stop for two and a half hours this Monday afternoon to improve the language in a new Comp Plan’s final draft.
The commission conducted the advertised public hearing on the document in July and was poised to complete its comprehensive planning effort on Aug. 2, when District 3 Supervisor Lynn Brownley rocked the meeting room with critical remarks.
District Planning Office Director Jerry Davis had provided leadership throughout the two-year comprehensive planning effort and took immediate offense to the critique delivered by the county supervisor. The commission, however, embraced the proposed improvements to the text and worked arduously on Monday to add the enhancements to the new plan’s final draft.
School Board member Rosemary Mahan shared insight concerning education goals and improvements the division has introduced in recent years. Nicholas Smith provided additional insight that will likely be added as an enhancement to a workforce training and economic development section of the Plan.
Brownley promised on Monday to provide commission and staff with a hard copy refinement of additional improvements he has suggested. Davis proved receptive to the refinements and the last set of revisions will likely be incorporated when the commission meets at 1:30 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 8 in A.T. Johnson auditorium.
Late in the Aug. 23 deliberations it was noted that the once controversial greenways consideration was still included in the draft document. An attempt to amend zoning rules to provide for greenway designations three years ago resulted in profound opposition and concern that the measure would result in a taking of privately owned land. Mahan noted the outcry during this Monday’s greenways discussion.
“Greenways were and are a very good idea,” Commission Chair John Felt said. He characterized the public’s fear that county government would use the failed greenways ordinance to exercise its power of eminent domain as a fiction.
“It was unfortunate that citizens arrived at a fictitious notion of eminent domain,” Felt said on Monday after noting that the 1999 Comp Plan also expressed the goal of establishing a set of greenways for the purpose of preserving the jurisdiction’s rural character.
“As a long-term goal, a greenway goal is a good goal that’s been part of this county’s Comprehensive Plan forever,” Felt commented.
“I think it was misunderstood” during the 2007 considerations, the Chair explained.
“The preservation of open space is often a critical element in protecting a community’s character and sense of place,” the draft plan’s greenways section states.
“The most successful efforts to protect open space and community character are those that integrate a range of open-space approaches.
“Greenways are corridors of linked public and private lands that provide access to parks and other open spaces, woods and conservation areas. They may be in the form of trails, bikeways, or linear parks.
“Permanent open-space areas are a complimentary component of all types of development that can add significant value to a project, provide recreational amenities, and enhance and protect environmental resources.
“Often, the real-estate value added to a project by open-space areas more than compensates for any loss in development potential.”
Similar language is included in the currently adopted Comprehensive Plan. The 2007 effort to amend zoning rules to reflect that plan’s greenway considerations was not unanticipated by planning and zoning professionals.
According to explanations provided by previously engaged land use consultants, adoption of a new Comprehensive Plan necessarily triggers revision of a jurisdiction’s zoning and subdivision regulations in order to reflect intentions stated in the plan. Adoption of new land use practices similarly trigger a need to revisit the plan in order to reflect the newly introduced ordinance requirements.
Adoption of the 1999 Westmoreland County Comprehensive Plan had the referenced result. Entirely new zoning districts were created to reflect the new strategies and directions that plan introduced.
Currently in its third draft, the proposed new plan can be viewed at www.Westmoreland2030.org or in its hard copy form in the county’s George D. English Building Land Use Office.