To better identify and adjust to social and economic trends, some towns routinely prepare a long-range plan addressing matters such as transportation patterns, land conservation, the development of business corridors and the type of available housing stock. Planners take into account national economic trends as well as the overall increase, decrease and age of the population.
Murrysville got a look at its new 10-year comprehensive plan when Andrew JG Schwartz, managing principal for Environmental Planning and Design Inc. of Pittsburgh, presented the first public draft of the plan at the Dec. 18 council meeting.
The borough must continue to manage its transition from a spacious, rural community to one whose population is increasing while the region’s is shrinking, according to Mr. Schwartz. That means dealing with a 31 percent increase since 2011 in the number of residents between the ages of 55 and 64; a decrease in the number of school-aged children; an increase in traffic and pollution; and an increase in tax revenues from the expansion of the Route 22 business corridor in a community that treasures its parks and green spaces.
“What we see in Murrysville is the focus on the build-out of land capacity, including development of sewer and water capacity to support it,” Mr. Schwartz told council members. “Also, Murrysville’s traditional 1-acre, single family home, wooded lot will be less desirable in the future. There is an increase in empty nesters, 55 to 64 years old, and in single up-and-comers who don’t want to maintain that size of property.”
Mr. Schwartz told council that research shows a trend toward smaller lot sizes and therefore higher population density. This is based on an increase in the number of young professionals ages 24 to 35 and young empty nesters ages 55 to 64, many of whom live in one- or two-person households. A large proportion of these households will seek smaller living quarters located within walking distance of retail and entertainment amenities and employment opportunities.
In addition, the number of households containing one or more non-related persons has increased 12 percent in the past 10 years. This demographic, called a "non-family household," is also expected to seek smaller living quarters and more supporting amenities.
Household income in Murrysville also has increased. Today, 42 out of 100 households in Murrysville earns more than 75,000 per year, which represents a 27 percent increase since 2000. This is expected to drive growth in the retail, food and entertainment industries.
"A lot of things have changed in a 10-year period," Mayor Robert Brooks said. “What about industrial development? We have a very limited space to offer for light industrial work. We have had to refer folks to other places in the county because we couldn’t handle them."
Mr. Brooks asked Mr. Schwartz about developing the Route 286/Route 366 corridor for light industrial use. Mr. Schwartz replied that sewer and water capacity is the largest current constraint on such development.
The draft of the plan lists these goals for the community over the next 10 years: maintain quality, manage growth, improve transportation, celebrate community and be fiscally responsible.
A hearing to gather public response to the plan will be held in about 45 days, Mr. Schwartz said. The draft of the plan is available to the public on the municipal website. After the public hearing, the plan will be revised and submitted to council for action.
The Pennsylvania Municipal Code provides guidelines for such plans, but communities are not required to prepare one.
Tim Means, freelance writer: firstname.lastname@example.org.