Lansford Borough Council listened Monday as a municipal planner walked them through what council President Bob Gaughan called an "owner's manual" for the borough and its adjacent communities.
Nanci Sarcinello of Sarcinello Planning & GIS Services, West Chester, Chester County, presented the update on the Western Carbon County Comprehensive Plan, which can be likened to a snapshot of the current land use plans of Lansford, Summit Hill and Jim Thorpe. The snapshot will become a road map to the communities' future development.
Organizers expect to have the Comprehensive Plan ready by early in 2011. But first, the boroughs' planning commissions, school districts and adjoining municipalities must review the proposed plan. Special meetings must be held to gather public opinion and answer questions before borough councils finally adopt the plans.
The snapshot has been developing for about 18 months, Sarcinello said.
Most of the work so far has been information-gathering, Gaughan said. He is a member of the committee, formed in 2008, that began the initial assessment and mapping work. The remaining work, Gaughan said, includes making the "crucial decisions" that will guide the borough's development.
Organizers will need to consider what they want in terms of residential, business and industrial growth and patterns, traffic, infrastructure, waterways and open space and recreation. The boroughs have a combined total of 25 square miles of land, 12,000 residents, 6,000 homes, 46.5 miles of road and 22.5 miles of state road.
"There is much visionary work that needs to be done," Gaughan said.
Carbon County also needs to craft a comprehensive plan. County Planning and Development director Judy Borger has said Carbon's plan would follow those chosen by municipalities.
The three boroughs Sarcinello said Penn Forest Township is considering joining the plan last planned for joint land use in 1966. Lansford updated its portion of the plan in 1999. Sarcinello said the plan should be updated every decade.
It's important to bring the plans in line with the changing times, Gaughan said.
"The conditions in Lansford in 1999 were altogether different from what they are today," he observed.
Council members added information to Sarcinello's maps.
Sarcinello showed her audience maps of residential, commercial, open space and waterways. Councilman Tommy Vadyak told her of an underground man-made tunnel from the Andrewsville section of town that empties mine drainage into the Lehigh River.
The Panther Creek, Sarcinello said, is impaired by industrial pollution.
Resident George Bottomley was the sole member of the public to attend the presentation. He said he came "to see what it was all about."
Afterward, Bottomley said he thought it was "pretty interesting. It will be useful."
Is he willing to get involved?
"Yeah," he said.
It will cost $162,390 to craft the Western Carbon County Comprehensive Plan, Carson Helfrich of Community Planning and Management, LLC, Wayne County, has said. Helfrich works with Sarcinello on the project.
The project has gotten grants of $46,930 from the state Department of Community and Economic Development for land use planning and technical assistance; $45,730 from the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Open Space; and $24,000 from the state Department of Transportation.
The three boroughs must contribute a total of $45,730, although Gaughan said Jim Thorpe and Summit Hill will shoulder most of that burden.
Other municipalities have joined in regional planning throughout the county.
The Palmerton area comprehensive plan was adopted last year, and others are in varying stages of updating their plans.