Carbon County officials are working toward creating countywide comprehensive and greenway plans to help municipalities in the future.

During a recent public hearing of the Carbon County Planning Commission, members of the commission listened as Charlie Schmehl, vice president of Urban Research and Development Corp. of Bethlehem, who is working with the county planning staff to create the plans; and Judy Borger, director of the Carbon County Planning and Development Office outlined the main points of the plans. The project is funded mainly through state grants.

Schmehl explained that the plan is "not a regulation" but rather "a set of policies that's intended to guide development and preservation over the next 10 years or so."

The plans, which will be used for grant purposes; as well as to help coordinate projects, are being compiled using data from the municipal levels and from conservation and recreation organizations. Group plans include a plan from Palmerton, Bowmanstown, Lower Towamensing Township and Towamensing Township; Weissport, Franklin Township, East Penn Township, Mahoning Township and Lehighton; and Jim Thorpe, Summit Hill, Lansford and Penn Forest. Other information used in the plans include plans from Weatherly and Kidder Township; as well as Nesquehoning.

"It's (the plans) not trying to have the county force any policies down on the municipalities," Schmehl said. "Instead it's taking many of the decisions they (the municipalities) recently made, coordinating them together, and providing additional recommendations and ideas."

Borger noted that she felt having municipalities work on group or individual plans before creating the countywide plans was the best way because "If you're going to support something, you have to be involved in the creation of that document. That was the goal of this, getting regional and individual municipalities involved."

Schmehl outlined some of the goals for the plans, which include protecting natural features, preserving farmlands, protecting water quality, promoting new business development, strengthening downtowns, and having compatibility between developments avoiding traffic safety problems.

He added that another objective is to promote land preservation, while also building growth in housing developments.

The meeting continued by discussing other areas of concern, including traffic in the Jim Thorpe area, as well as problems with traffic congestion while crossing the Thomas J. McCall Bridge in Lehighton; building and sustaining both conservation and recreation trails throughout the county.

Borger noted that the D&L Trail is nearing completion, with only three areas needing to be addressed before the trail is complete through Carbon County.

The next step before the plans can be finalized and adopted include another public hearing involving the Carbon County commissioners. No date has been announced on that hearing.

After all requirements are met, the group hopes to have the commissioners formally adopt the plans.

Public comment is still welcome.

To access the Carbon County Comprehensive and Greenway Plans, visit www.carboncounty.com [1] and scroll down to Important Links. A link to the draft plan, including maps, is available.

Borger also said that if anyone has comments, they can contact her at (570) 325-3671, Monday through Friday between 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m.