A status report on the Central Carbon County Regional Comprehensive Plan was presented by Allen Heist of Stell Environmental Enterprises, project manager and consultant, to CCCRCP committee members on Thursday at Schwab Law office in Mahoning Township.

The local committee is comprised of representatives of each of the five communities who have joined together for the project. Representing the communities at the meeting were: Lehighton, Darryl Arner; Mahoning Township, Frank Ruch; Franklin Township, Paul Kocher and Rod Mann; and East Penn Township, Att. William Schwab. Also attending was Judy Borger, chairman of the Carbon County Office of Planning and Development. Weissport representative Susan Pywar was absent due to her work schedule.

Heist noted that 19 of the key person interviews are completed and several of the 872 citizen surveys that were mailed have been returned to him for review. He said he is still hoping to meet with key school district and hospital personnel who have not responded to his requests for a key person interview. He will continue to accept key person interviews and citizen survey forms for the next several weeks as he begins to compile the information for a report.

"Understand that this is a work in progress," said Heist. "What kind of community do we want to create for the Central Carbon County region? What should it look like and how do we make it happen? These are just some of the questions that should be answered in the Regional Comprehensive Plan to develop a vision for the future for the municipalities of the region."

From information compiled in the two public sessions, Heist came up with five community goals for members to review.

1. Protect and improve the character and sense of community in the Central Carbon County Region.

2. Improve Mobility (providing more transportation choices).

3. Build and maintain a livable community with good services and facilities.

4. Ensure the economic vitality of the community.

5. Conserve the region's natural and cultural resources.

Heist noted that if Carbon County is able to meet its goals and objectives, the area will see new development that accommodates expected growth and will respect the natural environment. He said residents will be able to access community centers, parks and schools through a network of streets and farmlands will be preserved for future generations. The Lehigh River corridor will continue to be a focal point for recreational activities and tourism in the area which will contribute to the economic growth of the Lehighton area. He feels Lehighton will become a viable urban center and the economic foundation of the region.

He also noted that new non-residential development will be limited to designated areas along the region's major highways and the Packerton site will contain a mix of uses. Businesses in designated commercial and industrial areas will contribute to making the region a balanced community by providing jobs and contributing to economic vitality. The region's highways will function in a safe and efficient manner and residents of all ages will have access to safe and convenient community services, such as parks, recreational programs, libraries, and have adequate fire and police protection.

In the next meeting, Heist will review a draft of the physical environment and natural and historic resources and also will have provide a summary of the public participation questionnaire and key person interviews. Heist said that he and Borger coordinated a meeting on Feb. 12 with representatives of the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR), Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED), consultants of individual and regional comprehensive plans, greenway plans, county's comprehensive plan and recreation plans to help prevent duplication of services.

"The reason I wanted to get everyone to get together is that we all have limited resources," said Borger. "So I wanted to make sure that the resources that we have go as far as possible."

Borger said that group will continue to meet every six months so that everyone keeps up to date as to each other's progress.

Borger noted that she is also coordinating a meeting with a consultant of the state Department of Transportation to provide transportation comprehensive plan training to those who are doing the transportation component for the county comprehensive plan. The meeting will be held from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, April 21 at a location to be determined. Approximately 15 to 35 people will attend.

Attorney Schwab said that he will check to see if the Lehighton School District administration building is available to host the meeting.

The next meeting of the CCCRCPPC will be at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, May 20 at Schwab's office.