Sunday, February 2, 2014

A Comprehensive Look

Pottstown's first Comprehensive Plan was adopted in 1960.

Since then, the borough has seen more changes than a chameleon at a laser Pink Floyd show and few of them good.

Primary among those changes was the draining away of Pottstown's industrial foundation; the engine on which Pottstown was built.

Think of the many problems we have today -- crime, low-paying jobs and unemployment, a crumbling tax base, a high number of rental properties -- and recognize that most of them go away with living-wage employment.

Pottstown had that with industry, but does not any more.

So what to do?

Plan for the future is all we can do and that's what's going on right now, with the
The draft plan considers downtown Pottstown an "opportunity site."
help of the Montgomery County Planning Commission.

For more than a year, the draft of the new comprehensive plan has been underway and it is now available for public review.

I have posted the draft on Document Cloud and you can read it by clicking here.

(If you like things more official, you cal also read it on the borough web site here.)

Understand that its a draft and it is being put out there for you to look and and offer comment about ways to improve it, flaws you may see or things you like about it.

Last month, county planner Meredith Curran Trego, who works with the Pottstown Planing Commission, gave borough council an overview of the draft.

Try not to be too surprised when I tell you there was little if any discussion about it. (Not sure if we want to suggest that the level of discussion may have reflected the level of understanding, but let's not go there.)

Meredith was kind enough to provide me with a copy of the presentation as well, which I have also uploaded to Document Cloud and you can read by clicking here.

It includes the basics, a public profile for example, that includes things like:
  • Population: (22,377, a 12% decrease since the last plan in 1985); 
  • Employment: (10,812 with 11,508 by 2040, a 6.4% increase in the next 26 years)
  • Median income: ($46,066, nearly 40% lower than Montgomery County's median of $76,381)
  • Median owner-occupied housing value: ($136,700, 46% below Montgomery County's median of $255,000)
It is on facts like these, and how our land is currently used -- 38.1% residential; 11.1% commercial; 8.8% open space and 28.3% industrial or institutional -- that a plan for the future must be built.

The overview identified several "opportunity sites" near the airport, along the riverfront and in the downtown among the 156 acres of undeveloped land in the borough.

The overview identifies several broad goals for the borough, including "grow business and employment (duh); "expand heritage tourism infrastructure and attractions;" "build on existing arts and culture activities and an economic development tool to bring more visitors into the town," and so on.

It also calls for improving and expanding the airport; capitalizing on existing rail infrastructure; and improving access and awareness to public parking, among other transportation-related goals.

Housing goals include "encourage the development of properly located multi-
family apartment complexes, attached townhouses and adaptive reuse of quality older structures for dwellings;" "support the transition of rental housing units into owner-occupied housing where appropriate;" "look to promote downtown housing by encouraging the renovation of the second- and third-floor stories above downtown retail spaces.

In terms of the borough's historic and cultural aspects, the draft will "preserve the historical as well as the architectural qualities of Pottstown's built environment through the creation of a comprehensive preservation program;" "work with the owners of historic properties to education them as to the value of their properties. Ensure that owners of historic properties receive appropriate technical assistance and financial incentives information from government sources;" "develop marketing and outreach for coordinated promotion for Pottstown's historic resources and offerings."

In addition to goals for maintaining and improving school buildings and water and sewer infrastructure, the comprehensive draft also calls for expanding and upgrading the existing library facilities and to "consider relocation to a site nearer to the downtown.

Obviously there is much more to the plan, and this merely scratches the surface, but its the kind of thing which will become the official plan without any public input.

So if you have the time, take a look through the plan and avail yourself of the opportunity being offered -- to have a say in the future of your community. 

No comments:

Post a Comment