South Whitehall asking residents for help in planning for future development

Written by on September 21, 2022

South Whitehall asking residents for help in planning for future development

By Olivia Marble
September 21, 2022

South Whitehall Township is seeking public input on its comprehensive plan and will hold five public meetings over the next week for the public to share concerns.

SOUTH WHITEHALL TWP. — In bucolic South Whitehall Township, one of the most controversial political issues is development.

Tensions came to a head in late 2017, when the proposed mixed-use development Ridge Farm sparked controversy that drew hundreds of residents to township meetings to try to stop it.

But the township Board of Commissioners could not legally prevent it from being developed because it followed the ordinances of the township.

Five years later, South Whitehall is working to upgrade the township’s Comprehensive Plan, which will inform new ordinances that, among other things, will guide development

And the township is asking residents to provide input.

The township in the next week will hold five Open House meetings for residents to provide feedback on the draft. Residents also can comment on the working draft online. Each section of the draft has its own comment form at the bottom of the page.

Township Planner Gregg Adams said participating in the creation of the plan is the main way South Whitehall residents can stop future development they won’t like.

“Once this is adopted and the zoning ordinances change, basically it’s a lot harder to stop development,” Adams said.

South Whitehall Township long-range planner Chris Strohler, left, and township planner Gregg Adams stand near a map of the township’s comprehensive plan. (Olivia Marble/WLVR News)

Setting guidelines

Chris Strohler, the long-range planner for South Whitehall, said the comprehensive plan directs the growth of the township. It’s a guideline for where future developments should go and what they should be like.

Stroller said that to create it, the planning department had to consider all of the elements of the township.

“We’re assessing land use, we’re assessing transportation, we’re assessing, you know, who are the people here?” he said. “And where do they live? Who are the people here? And do they work here? Where do they work? Who are the employers in this area?”

Adams said the comprehensive plan is important because it informs the different township ordinances that regulate land development. Once those ordinances are in place, it is very difficult — sometimes impossible — for the township to stop developments that follow those ordinances.

“People have to understand that you can’t come out and just say, ‘I don’t like this, can we stop this?’” Adams said. “The problem is you can’t. So the comprehensive plan is really your chance to say, ‘This is how I want to see the township grow.’”

Plan in final stages

The township created the draft of the new comprehensive plan over the past three years, soliciting community input since the beginning. It now is in its final stages of development.

Adams said providing feedback to the draft before it is finalized is a great opportunity for South Whitehall residents to get involved with local politics, even if they never have before.

“If you care about how the township is growing, going to grow in the next 10 years, this is something you should be concerned with,” Adams said.

Construction has not started on Ridge Farms, though developers have demolished some existing structures and cleared the land. No building permits have been issued for work on the development, Adams said.


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