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Ligonier Township planning commission learns more about comprehensive plans

| Wednesday, Feb. 26, 2014, 9:02 p.m.

Ligonier Township planning commission learned more about comprehensive development plans last week.

The township's comprehensive plan — a vision for community development — was last updated in 1989.

It should be updated every 10 years, according to zoning officer Shelly Kaltenbaugh.

Estimates to update the plan and the township zoning ordinance range between $100,000 and $150,000.

Funding and assistance are available through county and state agencies, two experts told the board at a Feb. 18 meeting.

Dennis Puko, planning program manager for the state Department of Community and Economic Development, and Brian Lawrence, assistant deputy director of the Westmoreland County planning department, detailed issues to be considered.

Puko explained that there is not a standard comprehensive plan because municipalities have different issues and goals.

“A comprehensive plan is about helping you find information, answers and intelligence that will help the township make the best possible decisions going into the future,” he said.

During the creation process, he said, municipalities should address the character of the community, the desired growth, areas where growth should occur, and changes and trends seen in the community.

Each year, the state Center for Local Government Services awards several planning grants that cover up to half of eligible costs for municipalities' planning initiatives, Puko said.

He said the center typically favors applicants creating a regionalized comprehensive plan to cover neighboring municipalities, but single-municipality applicants are considered.

“It makes the most sense in the world to look at things from a bigger perspective,” he said. “What happens in Ligonier Borough and what happens in Latrobe or some other areas around (Ligonier Township) is going to affect what happens to you. It pays to be smart about what is going on in those places, and it really makes a lot of sense, whether you are equal partners in funding with them or not, to communicate with them and understand what they are doing to help you better understand what is best for you.”

Municipalities are not required by law to have a comprehensive plan in order to have a zoning ordinance, but the plan can inform the zoning by providing development goals.

“Your rules are there to accomplish a good and useful purpose, and the comprehensive plan helps you define what that good and useful purpose is,” Puko said.

The county planning department provides services to municipalities that are revising comprehensive plans, Lawrence explained, such as assistance with conducting community surveys and analyzing zoning to determine how it will affect the layout of a municipality.

Both Puko and Lawrence agreed residents' input is beneficial, after Kaltenbaugh suggested creating a vision statement or asking residents what they like or dislike about the township.

Lawrence said the county wants to work “hand-in-hand” with the state and local municipalities to help communities accomplish planning goals.

“For every community, the question of the comprehensive plan will have a different answer,” he said.

In other business, the board voted 2-1 to recommend to supervisors the approval of a final subdivision of the Good Fellows Sportsman Club off Nature Run Road.

Joe Davis of Ross Surveying explained that several dwellings had been built on the property over the years, and the club owners requested the subdivision to make the property easier to sell.

The application included requests for several modifications of the comprehensive development ordinance for some of the lots, such as decreasing the requirements for right of way measurements, reducing the required radius of the property's cul- de-sac and allowing existing residential structures to extend over the required building line.

Ben Faas and Mark Spitzer cast favorable votes. Robert Angelo dissented, stating he was not sure he liked the modifications.

Board members Robert Smithley and R. Eric Schrieber were not present.

The next meeting will be held at 7:30 p.m. March 18.

Nicole Chynoweth is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-850-2862 or