MILLCREEK TOWNSHIP COMPREHENSIVE PLAN
PLAN SUMMARY AND RECOMMENDATIONS
Updating the Township’s Plan
In 1995, Millcreek Township’s Board of Supervisors began the process of updating the Township’s 1980 comprehensive plan. The Township entered into agreements with Erie County’s Department of Planning and with Richard C. Sutter & Associates, Inc. to provide consulting and other assistance for the project. The Township was fortunate to receive a grant from the Coastal Zone Management Division of the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection to assist in funding of the project.
Pennsylvania’s Municipalities Planning Code (MPC), which is the source of State law on the use and development of land, establishes guidelines for a municipality’s comprehensive plan and, today, requires that adopted plans be reviewed periodically. A comprehensive plan is not law. Instead, it is a plan for future development in the municipality. Millcreek Township’s project has involved both a review and analysis of existing conditions and development of goals to achieve in the future.
Work on updating Millcreek Township’s comprehensive plan has continued for over five years. Much of the detail required was gathered in 1995 and 1996 and has since been updated. In addition to professional services, a number of Township residents, members of the Township’s Planning Commission, Supervisors and staff of the Township have devoted countless hours to the project. Some who were deeply involved at the beginning have since moved on, with others joining in recent years.
The Purpose of the Plan
The MPC establishes certain requirements for a comprehensive plan. In addition to what State law requires, a municipality can deal with other issues it considers to be important. When Millcreek Township’s Supervisors approved the project of updating the 1980 comprehensive plan, one of their stated goals was development of a recreation and open space plan.
The 2002 Comprehensive Plan is accompanied by a Background Analysis, a lengthy document which analyzes the Township’s physical terrain, demographics, economics, land use, neighborhoods and housing, public utilities, community facilities, municipal finances, transportation facilities and natural resources. The Background Analysis is not, itself, a part of the Comprehensive Plan. It does furnish analysis upon which goals, recommendations and other portions of the Plan are based.
The Comprehensive Plan includes all of the basic elements which Pennsylvania law requires. It also includes a recreation and open space plan.
Under recent amendments to State law, the Township’s comprehensive plan is to be reviewed at least every 10 years. The 2002 Plan includes a future land use plan and map which reflects the most detailed study of land use in the Township’s history. This data will be retained on computer and be consistently updated, so that the Township will have detail which can be revised as development and redevelopment continues in the future.
Demographic and Development Analysis
The Township’s 1980 Comprehensive Plan projected that the Township’s population would be 51,510 in 1980 and grow to 70,000 by the year 2000. In fact, the 1980 census reported the Township’s population as 44,303, and that grew to 52,129 by the 2000 census. It is now projected that the Township’s population in the year 2010 will exceed 57,000.
The median age of Millcreek Township residents increased from 31.6 years to 35.8 years between 1980 and 1990, with all age groups over age 60 increasing and the number of persons between ages 5-24 declining.
The Plan assumes that service sector growth, particularly business services, will likely lead future employment growth, and proposes that the Township take advantage of its location in attracting growth in this area.
In 1996, approximately 13,748 acres of land in the Township (73% of the Township’s gross area) had been developed. As of 1996, there were approximately 3,500 acres of land in the Township suitable and available for development. If current ratios prevail, the Township may be fully “built-out” by 2020.
In recent years, the Township has seen a number of developments which involve re-development, or conversion of older, predominantly business-zoned properties into newer buildings and uses. Improvements to commercial buildings and to stormwater management of redeveloped properties, should be encouraged. Since 1998, the Township has received funds from the U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development’s Community Development Block Grant Program. A portion of these funds are being made available to residents having low and moderate incomes, to assist them in rehabilitating often aging homes.
The Housing Plan element of the 2002 Comprehensive Plan contains a number of recommendations, including:
- Possible implementation of zoning regulations to allow the “traditional neighborhood development” authorized under 2000 amendments to the MPC.
- Set aside portions of vacant land for multi-family and higher density residential use.
- Consider consolidating existing “D” and “E” Residential zoning districts into one district for higher density residential use.
- Consider revision of the Mobile Home Park Ordinance to require better site design.
- Focus housing rehabilitation efforts in declining neighborhoods.
Plan infrastructure extensions to assure that development occurs at a sustainable pace.
Cultural and Historic Preservation Plan
This element of the Plan notes the importance of identifying and recognizing historic and cultural resources which now exist, and that identified buildings, facades and streetscapes then be maintained and improved.
Other recommendations include:
- Promotion in the schools of local history and historic resources.
- Provide for proper treatment and recognition of future historic resources.
- Promote development that respects the unique character of existing resources.
Recreation and Open Space Plan
Pennsylvania law allows a municipality to establish, by ordinance, regulations intended to assure acquisition and development of lands for public recreational use. The 1980 comprehensive plan cited a deficit in recreation areas. While a number of new areas have been developed for recreation, others have been lost to development as the Township’s population continues to increase.
In order to meet requirements of State law for enactment of a recreation plan ordinance, this element, consisting of 25 pages and four appendices, is the longest section of the Plan. It begins with an overview of existing programs and facilities and then analyzes the Township’s recreational needs and development. The Plan then discusses planning for future park and recreational needs and standards to be considered in development of lands for public and private recreation. Recognizing that preservation of open space is essential to the best interests of residents and to recreational development, the Plan recommends that the Township enact ordinances which can assure both preservation of open space and future public recreational development.
The plan for open space preservation recommends that the Township adopt conservation design standards for residential development which are consistent with those detailed in the plan and in the “Growing Greener” program. These include identifying and preserving primary and secondary conservation resources and requiring that open space be preserved in the development.
The Plan notes that recreation includes more passive activities, such as walking, bicycling and jogging, and that bike paths, sidewalks and trails, particularly if connected, can provide opportunities at minimal cost. The Plan recommends that the Township enact ordinances to require both conservation design and open space preservation in residential developments and dedication of land or fees in lieu of dedication to assist in future public recreational development. The Plan notes that open space can be preserved without materially affecting allowed density of development.
Specific recommendations include:
- Require preservation of open space in all residential developments.
- Require development of some of the open space for recreational use by those living in the development.
- Amend the Township’s official map to identify planned public recreational sites.
- Require dedication of land for the development of public recreation or fees in lieu of dedication.
- Commit the Township to contribute its share toward future public recreation.
- Adopt conservation design standards for residential developments.
- Establish maximum development density, not minimum lot size, as the standard for development.
- Require connection of local streets and sidewalks to those in adjacent areas.
- Preserve primary and secondary conservation areas.
- Assure that open space is accessible to all residents of that development.
- Encourage preservation of open space contiguous to that in other developments.
Future Land Use Plan
This element identifies three goals:
- Provide for all appropriate land uses, considering attractiveness and function, and discourage conflicts among uses.
- Encourage high quality development and that which minimizes negative fiscal and environmental impacts.
- Manage development so that growth does not overtax existing infrastructure.
This Plan makes various recommendations based on an analysis of the Township’s existing land use and future needs. It encourages development of office parks and reservation of appropriate land for industrial use. It recommends preservation of open space in residential developments. As virtually no land in the Township is presently used for agricultural purposes, this Plan recommends that the present Agriculture zoning district be renamed the Rural Residential district, with land in this district to be used for lighter density residential uses similar to those now allowed in the district.
The Future Land Use Map included in the Comprehensive Plan details the proposed development pattern of the Township. This element and the map may lead to future revisions to the Township’s zoning map. As examples, the Agriculture zoning district may be renamed Rural Residential, and specific designation of land for use as office parks will be required.
This element of the Plan concludes with specific recommendations for future residential development design, consistent with general recommendations in the Recreation and Open Space Plan.
Economic Development Plan
This element of the Plan identifies two economic development goals:
- Promote maximum availability and usage of appropriate commercial, office and manufacturing activities which will provide for growth of the local economy.
- Create an economic climate which is conducive to the creation and retention of good jobs.
Noting that approximately 13% of the Township’s developed land is now devoted to commercial uses and that retail business tends to have a lower employment compensation structure and produces no goods, the Plan recommends principal emphasis on development of office parks and industrial uses.
Community Facilities Plan
This element of the Plan focuses on governmental, public safety, library and health facilities. Growth of the Township’s population and of demands on the Township are discussed.
- Development by the Township of capital improvements and budget plans.
- Require installation of street lights in all new residential developments.
- Revise ordinances to allow for use of impact fees which require the “user pays” principle.
- Study economic feasibility of future fire protection alternatives.
- Continue support of the Millcreek Senior Center.
Public Utilities Plan
With much of the Township developed and served by public water and sewer systems and typical utilities, this component of the plan addresses sections of the Township not now served or likely to need services in the future.
- Discourage use of on-site wells and sewage disposal systems where public services are available.
- Develop a facilities maintenance program to address rehabilitation or replacement of older lines and supplying services to areas likely to be developed in the future.
- Continue to enforce the Township’s Stormwater Management Ordinance.
Transportation planning includes dealing with current demands and anticipating future development and its impact.
This plan’s recommendations include:
- Identify major intersections and work toward necessary upgrades (signals, turn lanes, wider cartways, etc.).
- Require inter-connecting vehicular and pedestrian access in developments.
- Maintain the north-south highways at both ends of the Erie International Airport.
- Preserve land for needed rights of way in areas to be developed in the future.
- Encourage PennDOT to widen and create turning lanes on West 12th Street, Route 8.
- Encourage expansion in use of public transportation.
NonPoint Source Water Pollution Prevention
Bluff Recession and Shoreline Protection
State law requires that these issues be addressed in a municipality’s comprehensive plan. To a large extent, the Township has met and must continue to meet mandates of State law.
Recommendations here include:
- Work with other agencies to determine those activities and substances responsible for non-point source water pollution found in and downstream from Millcreek Township.
- Continue enforcement of regulations for new developments to minimize runoff and migration of pollutants.
- Seek grant funding to assist in cost of developing map of Township’s shoreline.
- Maintain bluff setback regulations.
Land Development Trends and Issues
This section overviews provisions in the Township’s Zoning and Subdivision and Land Development Ordinances. It discusses trends and issues in land use and land development, including recent changes in State law.
Its recommendations include:
- Consider elimination of current height districts and shift focus to setting maximum height of structures in each zoning district.
- Proceed with plans to restate the Zoning Ordinance.
- Complete restatement of the Subdivision & Land Development Ordinance.
The Process of Adopting the Plan
Pennsylvania’s Municipalities Planning Code defines the process a municipality must follow before adopting a comprehensive plan. The process is intended to give residents, as well as the County, the School District and other municipalities opportunity to review the plan draft and make comments before the Board of Supervisors acts on the plan.
The Township’s Planning Commission will hold at a public meeting on the proposed Plan on Thursday, March 14, 2002 at 7 p.m. in the Municipal Building’s meeting room.
At this public meeting, members of the Commission, Supervisors, Township staff and others involved in preparing the proposed Plan will explain the document and answer any questions that are asked. As Supervisors and many others involved in the process will be at this public meeting, comments received at this meeting will be important and will be heard by the Supervisors even before their own public hearing on the proposed Plan.
Copies of the proposed Plan have been provided to the Millcreek Township School District, Erie County’s Planning Commission and to all of the municipalities whose boundaries are contiguous to Millcreek Township’s. They will have 45 days in which to offer comments as to the proposed plan.
The Board of Supervisors will hold a public hearing on the proposed Plan at its regular meeting on March 26, 2002 at 7 p.m., also in the Municipal Building’s meeting room. Notice of this public hearing will be advertised.
Once the Board of Supervisors conducts its public hearing and considers comments received, it can act on the proposed Comprehensive Plan.
What Adoption of the Plan Means
A comprehensive plan is an important planning tool for the Township. But a plan is not law. Adoption of a comprehensive plan does not change any property’s zoning, nor does it change any existing Township laws. The future land use map included in the Plan is a projection of what may happen in the future; it does not force a change to any property.
While not law, a comprehensive plan is very important. The Municipalities Planning Code now requires that a municipality in considering changes to other laws consider whether those changes are consistent with the comprehensive plan. Future requests for rezoning of properties will be evaluated, in part, in terms of how the comprehensive plan calls for the land to be used.
The Township’s Board of Supervisors has already approved funding for a project to substantially revise the Township’s Zoning Ordinance. That restated ordinance, and any changes to the Township’s zoning map, would be based on review of the comprehensive plan.
The Open Space and Recreation Plan is intended to meet requirements of State law before a municipality adopts ordinances to provide for future recreational development. This section may also furnish the basis for revisions to residential subdivision design standards in the Subdivision and Land Development Ordinance.
Some of the Plan’s recommendations may lead to rezoning of properties. Today, no land is zoned for use as an office park, and the plan suggests that the “E” Residence zoning district be eliminated. These changes would not prohibit present uses, but would allow for different uses in the future.