The comprehensive plan we've been discussing has many parts, but we're jumping ahead just a bit because there will soon be a public hearing to consider a rezoning request. As we noted already, during the last planning meeting, residents were told the rezoning request was in line with "the plan," and what we were told was correct, it does agree with it, but very few people in North East have any idea what it contains. Unfortunately, this plan is what happens when no one pays attention.
Are old plans right for today?
If you look at the large map showing the zoning changes outlined in the plan, you'll see a date of 2003. Hmm, ... has anything happened in the 12 years since then? I seem to remember a recession the country is still trying to recover from, which might make a person want to slow down and reexamine the assumptions the plan was based on. What was apparent, however, at the last planning and supervisors meetings, is some township officials are taking the 12 year old plan as a set of hard rules to follow now.
The plan itself says it's flexible
The first page in the plan after the maps says:
It should be viewed primarily as a framework for action; a flexible guide rather than a rigid document. It consists of a series of general concepts ...
On the first page of the land use section, it also has this caution:
It is important to note that these plans are not zoning maps but rather recommended future land use plans.
So, why are township officials appearing to act otherwise?
Times change, people change, needs change
Is anyone who actually made this plan even around any more? Should the township be following a plan, even a suggested plan, that a sizable majority of township residents are completely unfamiliar with and, most likely, none of whom had any say in its design? Would the majority of residents, voters and taxpayers agree to its conclusions? Does this plan reflect current needs and economic conditions? Why do township officials want to follow the self described "flexible guide" as though it's a mandatory ordinance? These questions might be worth asking the next time the planning commission meets or the zoning hearing board is in session. The supervisors might want to consider them, too.
Everyone should see the plan
Every resident of the township or borough should study the proposed changes. Do you agree with the suggested rezoning? How many residents who have bought or built a house in the last ten years, anywhere near the area of the proposed changes, were made aware of them before they did so? Something to think about.
Outdated plans blindly followed can cause a great deal of harm or, in the very least, take us in the wrong direction. Let's take another look at these suggestions and recommendations from the plan, and if they no longer apply, let's do something else.