Members of the Central Carbon Regional Plan Committee are continuing their work on a comprehensive plan to provide a framework for the communities to achieve various goals over the next 10 years.

The next step of the board was to revise the chapter on existing condition and then discuss the final draft document.

Allen Heist, project manager of Stell Environmental Enterprises, was the facilitator. He provided an update on revisions of previously submitted materials and then displayed several existing land use maps that will be included in the final plans at Thursday's meeting at the office of attorney William Schwab.

Representatives attending were: Paul Kocher, Franklin Township; Frank Ruch and Bruce Steigerwalt, Mahoning Township; Attorney Schwab, East Penn Township; Darryl Arner, Lehighton; and Judy Borger, director of Planning and Development for Carbon County.

Heist said that Carbon County does not have adequate maps to show existing land use which is why the project went over budget. He said that the comprehensive plan will also include maps of neighboring Lehigh and Schuylkill counties and that Stell will absorb the extra costs.

"Because of the limited resources, financial manpower and time available to accomplish the goals, I think it is necessary to identify the short and long range plans," he said. "The short range is the first five years and the second from five to 10 year goals. Short range goals are priorities and therefore should be initiated soon after plan adoption and completed within five years."

Heist said that the long-range action items are scheduled to be implemented within 5 10 years, corresponding to the MPC (Municipal Planning Code) requirements that comprehensive plans be reviewed at least every 10 years.

"Groundwork laid by short-range efforts must take place before many of the long range action items can be implemented," said Heist.

Heist organized the comprehensive plan into five focus areas and the fifth and final chapter provided objectives.

Short-term objectives include supporting the revitalization of Lehighton and to encourage Mahoning Township to adopt safety and capacity improvements along the 443 corridor. He also noted that communities should adopt appropriate zoning and subdivision regulations to encourage new development that creates a network of open space and a sense of community and protects natural resources. The area, he said, should create a safe, convenient and attractive pedestrian walkway/trail system that connects recreational areas to the downtown business center.

Long-term goals include appropriate development of Packerton Yards, replacement of the McCall bridge and traffic improvements to the routes 209 and 443 intersection, and to continue revitalization of Lehighton and Weissport as the urban hub of the region.

He also suggested identifying the historical resources in the area and providing public water to meet the future needs of the area to encourage economic development.

Heist plans to complete the final document in the near future and hold a series of public hearings before adopting the plan. The MPC requires public hearings be held with each of the community's planning commissions and governing boards.

Heist hopes to hold one hearing for all the planning commissions and then take the plans to each of the four communities for final approval. Another meeting of the CCCRCP committee is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Thursday, May 19.

Heist said that the transportation segment and the park/greenway/recreation plan are nearly complete and will be incorporated into the final plan.

Through the greenway study, Schwab, who is also a member of the Lehigh Canal Commission and greenway comprehensive plan committee, noted that the Lehigh Canal Park is sorely underfunded. He noted that East Penn presently has a park and that Lehighton meets guidelines.

Franklin Township's park is supported by the Franklin Township Lions Club. Weissport has a new playground and recreational opportunities, but that Mahoning Township needs to acquire property for recreation because it has no recreational facilities for its residents.

Heist noted that Franklin Township should consolidate industry and commercial areas because they are too spread out.

The group also discussed the growing need for extending the public water service to accommodate development of the area.

Bruce Steigerwalt, engineer for Mahoning Township, noted that the area will require the installation of water tanks to provide good water pressure.

Heist noted that Weissport was the only community without a website.

"I recommend that Weissport get a website because it is so hard to communicate with someone from that community," said Heist. He said that the secretary is part time and that makes it difficult to contact her.