At the Jim Thorpe Comprehensive Planning Committee's regularly scheduled meeting Wednesday, Penn Forest Township Supervisor's Chairman Paul Montemuro discussed the changes development has brought to Penn Forest.
"When the new Census information comes out, everyone's going to be surprised to see that Penn Forest is the most heavily populated municipality in the county," he said.
Montemuro went on to say that 1,000 new houses have been added to the township every year for a number of years. This means that the demographics of the township have changed rapidly, it is no longer the sleepy backwoods area that many longtime residents of Carbon County remember it as.
The creation of many developments in the township, and the resulting amount of blacktop that has been laid down, have created flooding problems for residents. The high numbers of school children point out the lack of recreational opportunities. The creation of a new exit of the turnpike promises further construction.
To address the rise in construction and population, the township has had to totally rewrite its zoning codes.
Montemuro said, "The good old boys who used to run the township didn't want to work with anybody and they wrote the book so it could have loopholes. We had to have an outside company, with no ties to the area, come in and redo the zoning codes so that we could have control of the area and not have it be trashed as development continues."
The new zoning codes have allowed the township to counteract flooding by creating ordinances that require new developments to install run-off drains and ditches. To provide places to play for children, the township has worked with the Penn-Kidder School to begin the creation of a large park on the schools property.
The zoning codes will also help regulate the chain-hotels and fast-food restaurants which will accompany the construction of the turnpike exit.
Montemuro asserts that these changes are inevitable and that to deny them or downplay them would ultimately be detrimental to the township.
"Sometimes people don't want to face these issues," he said. "But if we don't we won't be able to dictate what happens in our township."
He went on to say that the township is committed to not raising taxes to pay for things like the new park. The funding for such projects will all be done through state grants. Achieving easier access to such state money is one of the reasons Penn Forest Township has joined with Jim Thorpe, Lansford and Summit Hill boroughs in the development of a new comprehensive plan.