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State opens discussion on 'smart growth'

| Sunday, March 4, 2001

Land use is a subject that has been drawing increasing attention in recent years in Pennsylvania.

Efforts to promote 'smart growth' and curb so-called 'urban sprawl' are of keen interest to property owners, builders and developers, environmentalists and public officials, among others.

Testament to the importance of such matters is an upcoming conference in Hershey being sponsored by the state.

Gov. Tom Ridge's Center for Local Government Services will host the event, dubbed 'Growing Smarter: Land Use in PA Conference' March 18-20 at the Hershey Lodge and Convention Center.

'Land use is an issue that affects every Pennsylvanian - whether you live in one of our Commonwealth's bustling cities, a suburb on the rise or a quaint small town,' said Lt. Gov. Schweiker, in announcing plans for the event late last month. Schweiker chairs the state's Local Government Advisory Committee.

The conference, which is open to both public officials as well as the general public, will feature prominent speakers, more than 50 discussion sessions, and more than 50 exhibitors.

The discussion sessions will follow eight difference tracks, officials said. They are: farmland and agriculture; green communities (sponsored by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection); greenways and open-space conservation; historic preservation; housing and community development; infrastructure and growth; perspectives on land-use policies, and zoning techniques.

Keynote speakers include David W. Crockett, city councilman in Chattanooga, Tenn., whose topic will be 'Chattanooga: Urban Revitalization Success Story'; Edward T. McMahon of The Conservation Fund, who will discuss 'The Dollars and Sense of Growing Smarter'; and Joseph P. Riley Jr., mayor of Charleston, S.C., who will discuss 'The Revitalization of a City: Charleston, South Carolina').

Those interested in receiving a conference brochure and registration form should contact the event coordinator at (800) 822-3063, visit the Web site of PA PowerPort at www.state.pa.us , or visit www.dced.state.pa.us .

Registration forms must be received by Friday.

Allegheny Energy donates to center

Allegheny Energy, through its Environmental Stewardship Program, donated $10,000 to the Westmoreland Conservation District for completion of the district's Center for Conservation Education.

The latest contribution brings Allegheny Energy's total donations to $45,000. The company made an initial $25,000 donation in 1998 and presented an additional $10,000 check to the building sponsors in 1999.

The center, designed to educate Westmoreland County residents about natural resources and their conservation, is being constructed on land next to the conservation district's offices on Donohoe Road in Hempfield Township.

The center will feature a geothermal heating and cooling system, a fuel cell for supplemental electricity, innovative insulation panels and a number of recycled materials. The structure itself is a modified, 120-year-old barn.

Work is scheduled for completion this spring.

Home building up in 2000

Residential construction contracts nationwide were up 5 percent last year compared to 1999, according to a national firm that tracks construction activity.

Total contracts reached $205 billion, up from the $194.9 billion in 1999, thanks to a 7-percent increase in the dollar value of single-family housing, although there was a 5-percent decline in dwelling units, Dodge reported. Multifamily housing last year slipped back 3 percent, following a 12 percent gain in 1999.

There was a 4 percent increase in residential construction contracts in the six-county Pittsburgh region last year when totals reached $887.5 million.

Rural Development loans available

The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Rural Development agency's Butler office has scheduled community group meetings to provide information on its single-family, low-interest loan program. One session will be at 10 a.m. Tuesday at 827 Water Street in Indiana. Another is scheduled at 11 a.m. the same day at the Skybank Building, 650 Corporation St. in Beaver. A third is set for 10 a.m. Thursday at the agency's Westmoreland Area office on Donohoe Road.

For more information, contact the Butler office at (724) 482-4800.

PRI offering risk-management course

The Harrisburg-based Pennsylvania Realtors Institute, the education arm of the Pennsylvania Association of Realtors, will hold 'Managing Risk in Real Estate' March 15-16 at the Clarion Hotel in New Kensington.

The two-day course regarding reducing risk through the understanding of real estate issues, offers to real estate professionals credits toward the GRI designation as well as seven mandatory continuing education credits and one broker credit.

A fee will be charged for those who enroll in the program. For more information, or to register for the course, call (800) 745-5527.

Ron DaParma is the Tribune-Review's real estate writer.

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