Pleasant Township is working on a comprehensive plan but they need community input.
The township and planning department held a public meeting on March 27 at Pleasant View Middle School to update residents on the plan and gather additional input.
"Feedback is essential," stated Benjamin Weiner, a planner with the Franklin County Economic Development and Planning Department.
In 2004 the planning department sent out surveys to township residents to see what kind of development they would like to see in the future. The survey addressed commercial and residential development, transportation, farmland and the environment.
"I would say half of the people responded, so that was very good," Weiner said.
After those results were given to the Pleasant Township Trustees, they put together a 12-member panel, the Pleasant Township Comprehensive Plan Review Committee, or the Steering Committee.
"We all had common goals," said Lori Wade, a member on the steering committee. "We wanted to maintain the rural and agricultural communities, limit more development and protect the environment. That was very high on the list."
"Based upon the surveys and focus groups, people said there should be some commercial development in Pleasant Township, but for it to be contained in specific areas," Weiner said.
The plan would allow commercial development in areas with access to major roads such as Interstate 71 and Harrisburg Pike. They would include retail stores, office space and heavier commercial.
"It is commercial development with conditions, such as restricting uses that require water and sewer services," Weiner said.
Other areas that would see commercial development would be small scale commercial along Norton Road, small restaurants or small-scale retail along Alkire Road from Georgesville Road to Gardner Road.
The county and steering committee would also like to see small retail shops and restaurants at Pleasant Corners. However, some residents did not agree with that thought.
"Who came up with that idea of putting commercial development at Pleasant Corners," asked one resident. "Did the planning department knock on all the doors of the 4,000 households in the township and ask them this?"
Pleasant Township Chairman Keith Goldhardt reminded the residents that these are just recommendations, not "laws set in stone."
The comprehensive plan would allow residential developments as outlined in the Big Darby Accord.
"One of the goals is to preserve and protect the rural character of the township," said Weiner. "Many people said not to let big housing developments spoil the land."
According to Weiner, farming will play a key role in the future of Pleasant Township, so the goal is to preserve as much farmland as possible and help farmers stay on their land.
"The demand for locally grown food has blossomed over the years," he said. "We want to make sure it is economically rewarding for farmers."
"A lot of residents are concerned about cyclists and the children walking to school," Weiner said. "They believe it is unsafe because the traffic on the roads is too fast."
Townships do not set the speed limit, nor can they reduce it. That is up the state legislatures, noted Weiner.
"We all need to influence the decision makers to help it get taken care of," he said.
The plan would include making bikeways for cyclists and possibly widening the streets for sidewalks.
"Four or five extra feet would make walking on the roads a whole lot safer," Weiner said.
The plan aims to preserve the scenic beauty in Pleasant Township by protecting the Big and Little Darby and keeping an ample amount of open space. The plan will have to follow the Big Darby Accord, an agreement among 10 jurisdictions to restrict development in the environmentally sensitive area.
"Everyone is interested in keeping Pleasant Township a wonderful place to live," Weiner said.
The next step
At the public forum, residents received additional surveys asking them whether they agreed with the recommendations from the steering committee.
"Now we’ll take the feedback, refine the recommendations and present the final plan to the township when it is completed," Weiner said.
Goldhardt added that a finalized comprehensive plan not only decides whether someone can build something in a given area, but it is also a tool to protect everything in the township, residents included.
"It allows the elected officials to stick up for the residents to outside parties," he said.