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Plans receive criticism Concerns raised for Greenway, Comprehensive documents

Published November 23. 2013 09:01AM

A group of Carbon County residents voiced their opposition of two plans adopted by the county that are guides to coordinate development and redevelopment.

Prior to the county commissioners adopting the comprehensive plan and greenway plan, a special hearing was held. During the hearing, a number of residents spoke out, saying that the plans do not address the concerns of the citizens, only deals with the upkeep of greenways and development of trails, and fails to show places where development and growth is necessary.

Charlie Schmehl, vice president of Urban Research and Development Corp. of Bethlehem, who is working with the county planning staff to create the plan, began the hearing.

He noted that the plans are not regulations, rather a set of ideas and guidelines that municipalities can use for development.

He added that the state requires every county to adopt these plans every decade; and provides money to do so.

The plans, which will be used for grant purposes; as well as to help coordinate projects, were compiled using data from the municipal levels and from conservation and recreation organizations.

Schmehl highlighted the goals of the plan, which include protecting important natural features, preinclude protecting important natural features, preserving key areas of prime agricultural lands, protecting water quality, promoting new business development in appropriate areas, strengthening the downtowns of the boroughs, providing for compatible types of development, expanding the trail system, enhancing tourism and outdoor recreation and addressing traffic safety problems.

Patricia Seyford of Palmerton questioned a number of areas in the plan, stating that she did not feel the plan is good because it only addresses trails and green infrastructures and not the development of commercial space and communities.

She also called the plans "boiler plate," meaning that every comprehensive plan is cut from the same model.

"I feel the plan lacks vision and commitment of the resources to achieve a meaningful development," she said.

"I think you should reject the plan," Seyford concluded. "We need jobs and infrastructure and all this does is fight against it."

Schmehl again stressed that the plan is not regulations, but simply guidelines and suggestions that can or cannot be followed by the municipalities.

Hope Gramlich of Lehighton then addressed the crowd, saying that the county has given its control to the local authorities through this.

She spoke about easements and property owners rights; as well as trails, which she said need to be patrolled because "there are really great places to hide drugs along bike paths" as well as rob a bank and get away.

Gerald Strubinger of Jim Thorpe also spoke about his thoughts on the 903 Bridge in Jim Thorpe and McCall Bridge in Lehighton.

He said that the commissioners should stop the Route 903 Bridge project; as well as do something on property taxes, neither of which are governed by the county.

Following the public comment portion of the hearing, the board of commissioners made motions without discussion to adopt both plans. The motions passed unanimously.

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