Planning for growth remains top priority in Cranberry

| Saturday, July 5, 2014, 9:00 p.m.

As Cranberry's population continues its steady march toward the threshold of 50,000 by 2030 — the peak number that planners think the township can comfortably handle — some residents are concerned how the township will manage the growth.

“The traffic concerns me,” said Beth Southwood as she and son, Jacob, 7, browsed at the township library. “It's just going to be difficult to get anywhere.”

Cranberry is using its 25-year comprehensive plan, called the Cranberry Plan, to guide it through the next two decades in areas including economic development, infrastructure, transportation, culture and diversity, parks and recreation and public image.

The Cranberry Plan, at more than 250 pages, is available for viewing online at www.cranberrytownship.org.

“I see (Cranberry) as a well-connected, vital place for residences and businesses that has a diverse population as well as a diverse mix of structures and uses, a community that is thriving and happy. That's what we want,” said Ron Henshaw, Cranberry's community development director.

Some projects are scheduled to begin soon to accommodate the growth, but transportation could be the biggest challenge facing the township, through which tens of thousands of motorists pass through each day. Last month's emergency closure of Route 228 for more than 48 hours showed how a problem on one road can result in challenges for other roads to pick up the slack.

Though expansion is under way or planned for areas including Freedom Road, Henshaw said the township also will have to take a look at Rochester Road, as it is often congested in the area of the turnpike bridge.

“We're looking at the core area, and there will have to be some major changes in the next 20 years,” Henshaw said.

A proposed expansion of heavily traveled Route 228 in Adams and Middlesex also could affect Cranberry's traffic patterns, Henshaw said.

The township also is encouraging development of multi-family housing in the core of the township, which includes apartments and duplexes.

“Having a wide array of needs in terms of residential use is a good thing,” Henshaw said. “When the market slows down on one thing, another picks up.”

The township is about 70 percent developed, Henshaw said, but developers are now looking at lots that have been vacant for decades because of wetland or topography issues. They are now viewed as challenges that can be overcome.

The township also is continuing to court a mix of businesses, from retail stores to light industrial and distribution, Henshaw said, to make the economic base more diverse in the next 15 years.

“Having a diverse bunch of uses is important,” Henshaw said. “That's what keeps you from putting everything in the one proverbial basket. Having the right combination of things has been the key to past success.”

Minority population is slowly growing in Cranberry, according to census figures. In 2010, whites made up 94.4 percent of the population, down from 98.9 percent in 1990. Black, Asian and Hispanic populations are among those that are growing, according to the census.

Henshaw and others said that international companies such as Westinghouse should draw a more diverse population to the township.

“They're going to draw workers from all over the country,” said Michael Irwin, chair and associate professor in Duquesne University's sociology department, who researches urban and community sociology and demography.

“That could make it somewhat of a different kind of place.”

Construction is scheduled to begin in the fall on a $65 million project to expand capacity at the Brush Creek wastewater treatment plant to ensure more people don't overwhelm sewer service.

The expansion is being done in two phases, with the first phase, once completed, expected to carry the township through 10 years, officials said.

The township recently signed a 25-year agreement with West View Water Authority that the township said will ensure a steady drinking water supply through April 2039.

That agreement includes West View expanding its infrastructure. A new plant is planned along the Ohio River in Freedom, Beaver County, along with a new pipeline to carry the water into Cranberry.

Possibilities to increase recreational programs include disc golf and other programs that aren't part of the township right now, Henshaw said. Hockey is expected to get a boost from the UPMC-Pittsburgh Penguins sports medicine and hockey complex set to open next year. Township planners are working to expand pedestrian and bike trails and lanes.

“It's very smart planning,” Irwin said.

“You want to pull in younger families that want to stay a very long time and who want to be contributors to the community, not only economically, but as volunteers.”

Bill Vidonic is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-380-5621 or bvidonic@tribweb.com.

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