Monday, May 13, 2019

Three Important Interest Areas for The Future

Recently I was asked what the top three priorities of my campaign are. Those responses were published in the Centre Daily Times this past weekend. Today I'm sharing an extended version of what I like to call my interest areas.

The top three interest areas of my campaign are housing, transportation, and planning. While these are just three interest areas, I want to emphasize that government is so much more than just a single issue or a small handful of issues. I am committed to taking a look at all of the issues affecting the residents of Ferguson Township and seeing how I can address those issues to improve the Township for the future.

1. Housing 
Promote housing options that are more inclusive to families, young professionals, seniors, and people with disabilities.
I believe we need to collaborate with residents, housing professionals, the Centre Region Council of Governments (COG), and other stakeholder groups collectively to create solutions to address the housing concerns and needs in the Township and the Centre Region. As Township Representative to the Centre Regional Planning Commission (CRPC) I voted in favor of the Centre Regional Planning Agency (CRPA) to take an assessment on the opportunity for workforce and residential housing in the region. That project is expected to be initiated in 2019. 

As a former retail associate, I knew what it was like to live paycheck to paycheck while trying to afford housing in the Township. There are many others who commute into the Centre Region from outside of the county for work because it's their most cost beneficial option for them. However, in my retail experience, I also understand the challenges associated with the commuting workforce in the area. Transit options outside of the region are limited, vehicles are susceptible to breaking down, inclement weather can make commuting difficult if not impossible. As a result, this could mean one less cook in the kitchen of a busy restaurant, a shortage of cashiers before or during a snow storm, or a business having to shut down for a day because of a lack of available help. 

While housing isn't an exclusive reason for any staffing challenges facing businesses within the region, it is one of many variables that can affect business. If we were to help resource those who work in the Centre Region with opportunities to either eliminate or reduce their commute to work, not only would we possibly help them and their employer but we could also reduce the carbon footprint that's created by the number of people who already commute into the Centre Region to work.

2. Transportation
Transportation improvements that mitigate traffic issues while ensuring safety throughout our neighborhoods.  
Transportation in the region has presented a lot of concerns and challenges. Most notable to residents is the construction on the Atherton Street corridor. Thankfully, 2019 will see the end of construction on North Atherton Street in Ferguson Township. However, 2020 and beyond will see continued construction on Atherton Street in State College Borough southward. In addition, the left turn lanes on Valley Vista Drive will be completed in 2019 which will make the drive on that corridor coming in and out of Ferguson Township a little bit nicer.  

During the construction on North Atherton Street as well as Valley Vista Drive, many residents had expressed concerns of cut-through traffic and other issues such as motorist driving over the speed limit and failing to stop at stop signs. In addition, school bus stopping violations have become increasingly more of an issue Township wide. Whether or not we'll see less of those issues post-construction is yet to be known. However, I think the Township can do more to address traffic issues and safety of pedestrians and school students. We can explore enhanced signage options, road projects, education/awareness opportunities to possibly address various transportation concerns.

Expanding upon the concerns of compliance to the posted speed limits, Pennsylvania is the only state in the country in which municipal police departments can not use radar to enforce speed limits. The Ferguson Township Police Department as well as the Board of Supervisors have called upon the State Legislature to allow municipal police to use radar to enforce speed limits (Township Resolution 2018-4). With the current resources that the police can use, those resources have some limitations that make them less effective than radar. Dependent on the device being used to measure speed, the police can only monitor speed in certain locations due to required sight distances needed to measure or the need for additional personnel to ensure the speed measuring device doesn't get stolen. If passed by the State Legislature, I would support equipping our police with radar to enforce speed limits.

3. Planning 
Analyze the impacts of current development and explore/plan for future development opportunities both locally and regionally. 
a). We should analyze the effects of development and create solutions to address challenges created by development. As the Township approaches and moves into 2020, there's a lot of development that we can look back on that has occurred just within the past decade. As a result, there have been some noticeable effects of recent development that have become concerning whether it's traffic/transit, parking, light pollution, noise, neighborly concerns, etc. As a Township, we owe it to our residents to take a look at their concerns and assist them in ways (or present options) that help ease the concerns they may bring forward.

b). Instead of planning reactively, we should plan proactively into the future. Looking back on some of the most controversial developments within the Township and the Centre Region, some matters could have been mitigated more smoothly if more extensive long-term planning had been done earlier. As a representative to the Township Planning Commission, I have been working with Township Staff and the Planning Commission on revising the Township Zoning Ordinance and the Subdivision and Land Development Ordinance (SALDO). With the newly revised ordinances, we can better serve and meet the needs of the property owners with a modernized and comprehensive text on land use regulations and guidelines.

c). Further development and planning should also take into account the capabilities of fire protection & public safety, transportation, and other essential services. While growth welcomes opportunity for new residents and business within the area, the Township has to be able to serve those residents with adequate infrastructure and services.

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