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South Williamsport, PA
United States

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County Hall Corner: Planning the Future

One of the oldest clichés is that failure to plan is planning to fail. It also just happens to be true. Think of it like checking the weather. If I am out walking and suddenly it rains, I get wet. However, if I checked the weather reports before I left my home, and knew there

One of the oldest clichés is that failure to plan is planning to fail. It also just happens to be true. Think of it like checking the weather. If I am out walking and suddenly it rains, I get wet. However, if I checked the weather reports before I left my home, and knew there was a high likelihood of rain, I would carry along an umbrella. The trick for a large organization, like a municipal government, is to know when it may rain, how hard, and for how long, and then prepare for it. As John F. Kennedy once said, “The time to fix the roof is while the sun is shining.”

All of this requires very meticulous forecasting research, and then wisdom on how to prioritize the possible hazards and the potential possibilities for growth. For Lycoming County, this is known as the Comprehensive Plan. The Pennsylvania Municipalities Planning Code was established in 1968 and has been periodically updated, as recently as 2003. This law requires that every county and local municipality have a Comprehensive Plan, which is updated every ten years. It is a general policy guide for the physical, social and economic development for the community.

Moreover, when they say, “comprehensive,” they really do mean comprehensive. It covers everything imaginable from land use proposed for residence, industry, business, agriculture, major traffic and transit facilities, utilities, community facilities, public grounds, parks and recreation, preservation of prime agricultural lands, floodplains and other areas of unique hazards, and other similar uses. Then there must be a plan for movement of people and goods, which may include expressways, highways, local street systems, parking facilities, pedestrian and bikeway systems, public transit routes, terminals, airfields, port facilities, railroad facilities, and other similar facilities or uses. The plan must cover community facilities and utilities, which may include public and private education, recreation, municipal buildings, fire and police stations, libraries, hospitals, water supply and distribution, sewerage and waste treatment, solid waste management, storm drainage, and floodplain management — and there is much, much more.

The Lycoming County Planning Department has been working on the current plan for the past several years. Their efforts also embody the idea of “comprehensive.” To give just one example, Jenny Picciano has served as the Community and Economic Development Planner for Lycoming County since 2015. One of her efforts was devoted to updating Lycoming County’s Heritage Plan. It was badly in need of updating, given that it was last done in 1974. She and her colleagues networked with the various historical societies of the county to identify historic buildings and resources in the county. These buildings, sites, structures, or districts that are at least 50 years old, and are associated with a distinct architectural style, event, architect, and/or person, serve as a vital bridge to our history and heritage.

Kurt Hausammann, the County Planner, is now presenting Lycoming 2030: Plan the Possible. His team deserves an incredible amount of credit. When the plan was updated ten years ago, it required $900,000 in costs and involved lots of outside consultants. Much of the work for the current plan has been done in-house, and in many ways, the Planning Department has gone far above and beyond the paid consultants. (And they have done this at a cost that will be at least half of that of the last plan.)

Over the next two months, they will be making presentations at the regular Thursday morning County Commissioners Meetings. Each week, one of the eight critical issues, which will impact the county’s future will be highlighted. These would include such areas such as the infrastructure, the economy, flooding, and the drug problem. The purpose is to flush out any significant issues that the public may have. When completed, a final draft will be presented at a public hearing. Finally (!) the plan will be presented to the commissioners to be adopted by the end of June. All of this will be available on the county’s website, lyco.org. Give it a look — you will get a gaze at the future.

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