Commission considers drafts of comprehensive plans

After roughly two years of preparation, drafts of the six multi-municipal comprehensive plans were presented to the Lycoming County Planning Commission, Thursday evening.

The comprehensive plan is the most important part of the county Department of Planning and Community Development, according to Kurt Hausammann Jr., director of the department.

“It’s been a very detailed and somewhat long process,” Hausammann said, praising his staff as “dedicated individuals” as well as the planning area teams in each region of the county for the work they did.

Covering six growth areas throughout the county, the plans highlighted key issues in each area, with overlapping themes including government fragmentation, the opioid crisis, transportation, jobs, outdoor recreation and downtown revitalization.

The six growth areas are the Greater Williamsport Area, Route 220/Interstate 99 region, Lower Lycoming Creek, Montoursville/Muncy, U.S. 15 South and Muncy Creek. Additionally three rural areas encompass the rest of the county.

The comprehensive plans are an update to plans first drafted in 2005 and 2006.

The six draft plans will be presented to the public during a series of public hearings in May and June, and then will be on public display for 45 days before they are adopted by the municipalities, according to Hausammann.

Additionally, the planning commission also will begin working on a countywide comprehensive plan to encompass large issues that cross multiple growth area borders throughout the county. The countywide plan will be drafted by July or August and possibly approved by the county commissioners in November or December, Hausammann said.

A lack of volunteerism in local emergency services dominated many of the plans across the county. Hausammann said the Montoursville/Muncy draft proposes that local municipalities create or increase an online presence to reach out and engage the younger generation.

Additionally, the opioid epidemic that has increased throughout the county in recent years was a key concern.

According to Kim Wheeler, deputy director of planning and community development, the county does not normally include drug issues in a comprehensive plan.

“It really has risen to a high level of importance,” Wheeler said. The plans proposed increasing support for programs like Project Bald Eagle, to combat the issue.

Increasing economic growth and job opportunities were also key issues highlighted in the draft plans. Wheeler said the Greater Williamsport Area team will meet with the Williamsport/Lycoming Chamber of Commerce to address some of these issues.

Flooding throughout the region was highlighted as a major concern, specifically the recertification of the city levee system, which protects over $1 billion in real estate throughout the area, Wheeler said.

The levee must be recertified to maintain the proper standards set by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Wheeler said.

Mark Murawski, transportation supervisor for the county, said that repairs to structurally deficient bridges also are a key concern, specifically in the Route 220/I-99 area. He said some of the plans for bridge repairs are dependent on the passage of a $5 vehicle registration fee to be voted on by the county commissioners as a means to raise money for a bridge bundling program in the county.

Throughout the three rural areas in the county, west, east and central, issues such as maintaining outdoor scenic areas, the lack of adequate internet or cellphone service and maintaining good water quality also were addressed.