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Winfield Township drafts first comprehensive plan

| Sunday, Dec. 1, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
Jason Bridge | Valley News Dispatch
A sign at the entrance to the Winfield Winery at 1026 Winfield Rd in Winfield Township on Tuesday, November 26, 2013.
Jason Bridge | Valley News Dispatch
A home sits along Gerner Road across from a farmers field in Winfield Township on Tuesday, November 26, 2013.
Jason Bridge | Valley News Dis
A farmers field sits next to a home at 1085 Winfield Road in Winfield Township on Tuesday, November 26, 2013.

A low tax base and bucolic countryside hav made Winfield a desirable area to live, but more residents mean more homes and additional wear and tear on the roads.

The township's first comprehensive plan in its 217-year history tackles how to achieve balanced growth and improvements of residential neighborhoods, industrial areas and business districts.

Among the key goals of the plan is preserving natural and agricultural resources while enhancing quality of life in the township.

“In Winfield Township, the typical resident says, ‘Keep it rural,'” township Supervisor Matt Klabnik said. “That sort of thing doesn't just happen. You have to work to keep growth in check. (A comprehensive plan) gives you a measure of protection to say: here is our goal long-term.”

Township officials have spent most of the year developing the comprehensive plan.

The township used Marcellus shale impact fee money to pay its engineering firm, Malcolm Pirnie, to develop the plan. The firm has spent about $18,000 of the $20,000 budgeted.

Under Act 13 of 2012, an impact fee goes to county and local governments. It is distributed based on the number of eligible wells inside and near a municipality's borders.

“We knew it was something we needed, (but) it was never a priority for money that comes out of taxes,” Klabnik said. “Then we saw it was on the list of things you could do with Act 13 money.”

The township had previously relied on an “antiquated plan” from the 1980s prepared by Butler County, officials said.

Among the recommendations included in the plan is to assess the local tax rate and consider annual increases to generate sufficient revenues for road, stormwater management and other improvement projects.

A tax increase would be considered in the absence of other funding, such as grants or an increase in tax revenue through growth, officials said.

“We have raised taxes at different times, but we've raised them for particular things,” said Michael Robb, chairman of the board of supervisors. Last year the township raised taxes to pay for the replacement of the Denny Mills Bridge on Marwood Road.

“We're always open to looking at revenue sources,” he said, “but people live in Winfield because it's rural and we have a low tax rate.”

Robb said what's important is to keep the tax infrastructure current with township needs. Determining future needs through the comprehensive plan will help township officials determine the tax structure.

A comprehensive plan typically covers a 10- to 20-year period and is directly related to the amount of change that occurs in and around a community.

“When we started the sewerage project, we started talking about how it was going to impact growth and development within the community,” Robb said. “We knew once we had the sewage plan fully executed that we should probably have a comprehensive plan so we can look at what the township should be doing to respond to growth and development.”

Public sewers were put in for about 325 units, mostly residential, near Route 356 in sections of Cabot, Marwood and Knox Chapel.

Among the improvements outlined in the comprehensive plan is extending public sewers to the township building, community park and fire department and bringing public water to those areas with sewer service as they continue to grow.

Population expected to grow

The projected population growth rate over the next 20 years is based on an average 2.53 percent increase each year — the same rate used when Winfield proposed its sewage project for the Cabot area.

Using that growth rate, by 2015 the area would have about 4,000 people. The 2010 U.S. Census reported the township's population as 3,500.

As growth continues, the township will need to develop a better road evaluation and maintenance plan, officials said.

The primary roads get used by industry such as American Agip, which produces oil and lubricants, and Wayne W. Sell trucking company.

“It's to assess the need … how much traffic is on the road … what kind of traffic a road can handle … and what we might need to be doing in response to it,” Robb said. “To promote business, we might change the width or the contour of a road.”

Other plans for the township:

• Building additional amenities like picnic shelters, a walking trail or athletic fields. The township may begin to sponsor a Community Day in the Park.

• Establishing the position of township manager, which would assume the duties of the secretary-treasurer and zoning officer, jobs currently done by the township secretary.

The manager would concentrate on saving the township money and procuring funding assistance for infrastructure and other projects.

• If needed, considering a special agreement with Buffalo Township for dedicated police protection and regular patrols. State Police in Butler provide police protection, along with Saxonburg and Buffalo Township if requested by state police.

Jodi Weigand is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-226-4702 or jweigand@tribweb.com.

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