Mifflin County Planning Commission provides update to Comprehensive Plan

LEWISTOWN – The Mifflin County Planning Commission provided updates to the county Comprehensive Plan during a meeting Thursday afternoon.

Bill Gomes, director of planning and development, gave the presentation to review the draft of the new updated Comprehensive Plan.

“The purpose of this document is to provide an update on land use, transportation, economic development, housing, community services, and resource protection,” Gomes said. “This will provide a roadmap for the next 10 years.”

Gomes continued to say the full plan update is available online, but said he wanted to highlight some of the more significant changes to the new plan. The presentation also highlighted what some studies found which included transportation studies and trends in the county population.

“One of the things we found in the population trends is that there is a very slow and uneven population growth in the county,” Gomes explained. “There has been a decline in the greater Lewistown area, but moderate growth in Menno and Union townships.”

The change in population trends also shows the unemployment rates are consistently higher in Mifflin County than that of the region and state. However, the county has a higher than state average employment rate in manufacturing and agriculture. The plan also suggests a potential for about 1,500 new residents by the year 2030.

The special studies in transportation, Gomes said, provided results that were both expected and unexpected. One of the studies was conducted that the intersection of Charles and Dorcas streets, to check the safety of the intersection.

“We found it to be acceptable in the level of service for both current and projected traffic volumes,” Gomes said. “However a longer turning lane is needed, but to do that the bridge will need to be widened.”

Two changes to the Mill Street and Electric Avenue intersection have also been suggested in the plan. These two alternatives include a right turn only on the Electric Avenue or southbound travel only from Electric Avenue. A safety audit was also conducted on U.S. Highway 522.

“The safety audit on U.S. Highway 522 found repeated substandard conditions on both northbound and southbound travel lanes,” he said. “Some of these come from the road itself or even turns onto the roadway.”

Other transportation studies included the intersection at Walnut and Valley streets, the intersection at state Route 655 and Three Cent Lane, and an assessment was done of parking in Downtown Lewistown. Suggestions for all of these studies and assessments is included in the new Comprehensive Plan.

Residents at the meeting also discussed the draft of the model Wind Energy Ordinance, which has also gone through some changes. Gomes said one of the largest changes to the ordinance was the setback limit.

“We are going to have a 1,000-foot setback limit on Jack’s Mountain from an area called the National Area Inventory,” Gomes said. “There was a study done that notes a section that spans from one end of the mountain to the other where certain species live, and this requires a minimum setback of 1,000 feet.”

Gomes said the minimum is being done here because a setback of 2,500 feet, suggested by some concerned with the proposed wind farms, will make it excessively restrictive for the companies who want to build the turbines. The Planning Commission stressed that the information in the draft of the model Wind Ordinance are there for the safety of the residents of Mifflin County, which is the number one priority.

This was an overview of some of the contents of the Comprehensive Plan, Gomes said. The full plan is available at www.mifflincomplan.com. The Planning Commission voted to publish the draft starting on Monday. The official draft of the Comprehensive Plan will be available both online and in print for the next 45 days. Gomes said after the public review time the Mifflin County Board of Commissioners will vote on the plan during a public hearing at 9:15 a.m. on April 24.

The Mifflin County Planning Commission meets at 3:30 p.m. on the fourth Thursday of each month at the Mifflin County Court House, meeting room ‘B.’