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Strategic Plan Resident Focus Group Results

On July 5, 2016, the Ferguson Township Board of Supervisors authorized the Township Manager to enter into a contract with Peter S. Marshall & Associates to update the 2014 Ferguson Township Strategic Plan. As part of the preparation to update the plan, Township staff and Mr. Marshall scheduled a series of focus groups to obtain public input from each of the three voting wards in the Township. 

The following are notes from each of the focus groups:

Ward I – August 4, 2016, Baileyville Community Hall

What do you believe the biggest challenge the Township will face in the next five years?

Growth

“Up versus Out” – Allowing for higher density housing options versus large lot development and single family homes

Agriculture

  • Willingness and ability to maintain the Township's agricultural attractiveness while still allowing for economic growth in agriculture and keeping agriculture economically viable
  • How can the Township affect the economics of agriculture?
    • Must be a partnership – zoning language must be looked at in terms of what creating an environment that fosters growth and agriculture
    • Should not be left entirely to farmer and is not the total responsibility of the Township

Development

  • Much of the zoning restricts small businesses and business in general to certain areas of the township and does not permit the operation to function outside of the defined district
    • Should look at fostering small businesses and entrepreneurships in all areas of the Township
    • Issue with RA parcel that had a grandfathered business in operation and once it closed, no other business was permitted on the lot unless it was the same (non-conformance issue)
  • We have businesses (barns that could be used as storage facilities, etc.) that are no longer in operation that could be used as viable operations for certain things but are not currently permitted
  • Grandfathered = inaccessible
    • Biggest obstacle to one attendee in civic life is accessibility…grandfathering uses and businesses prevent them from being brought up to ADA and modern accessibility standards
    • Universal access standards to allow for aging in place and improve sustainability of community
    • As we are developing communities - there is a corridor of commercial where businesses cannot exist outside of that area; must look at preventing urban sprawl by allowing for some of these commercial uses in other areas

Affordable Housing and Accessibility

  • How can you achieve accessibility while still maintaining affordability? Sometimes these two appear mutually exclusive
  • Affordable housing continues to be a challenge in the Centre Region and not just in Ferguson Township
    • Consider taking on the issue of affordable housing at the regional level and pooling professional resources from the townships and the borough
  • Consider the affordability of housing and not just affordable housing
    • Affordable housing implies a certain program; whereby affordability of housing implies a broader perspective including zoning (making certain zoning districts affordable via lot sizes, etc.)
  • Question discussed of whether government should be involved in setting the market value of homes Accessibility – There is a gap between accessible low-income housing and accessible high-income housing that is not provided for…How can we create or foster the market that is available to middle-income individuals with different levels of abilities?

If you were a member of the Board of Supervisors today, what one thing would you change?

  • RA Zone – Looking at options to develop, protect and improve our environment, etc. the Rural Agricultural District is overly restrictive
  • Zoning in general – All zoning should be reviewed to be updated to address all of the issues that have been raised here this evening
    • Many of the variances that the Zoning Hearing Board is hearing relate to floodplains, encroachments into riparian buffers, and relief from a series of state, federal, and local protections that relate to the environment
    • Land is being taken out of active and productive use due to a series of regulations based on “shaky science”
      • Township should consider studying what uses (nonconforming or otherwise) exist – Inventory nonconforming land, determine why it is nonconforming, and decide what can be done to bring it into conformity
      • Township should assess the full impact of ordinances before they are adopted
  • Visitability and Accessibility
    • Making a home or any structure have a zero-degree entrance and restrooms and other amenities are universally accessible
  • Growth does not appear to be targeted for the population that it should
    • Reduce the amount of student housing – farmland is lost to development and it should be made more attractive and viable to small farmers
  • Make significant progress in resolving the conflicts between private ownership and public interests and the lack of publicly owned land
    • Increase economic viability
  • Need to be mindful of smart growth – growth is important for revenue but we also must be mindful of the long-term sustainability

What do you like about living in Ferguson Township?

  • Agricultural heritage
  • Water resources
  • Does not live in close proximity to students and high density housing
  • Roads
  • Police services and public safety
  • Good fire service
  • Good parks

What don’t you like about living in Ferguson Township?

  • Don’t feel like we have community gathering spots (although we have some…including parks and Baileyville)
  • Consider more community gardens and farms
  • Coops for food production
  • Farmer’s Markets

What is your highest priority for the Township?

  • Workforce housing
  • Fostering entrepreneurship
  • Need to look at what qualifies as entrepreneurship and determine how we can foster that type of endeavor
  • Need to work on economic development and entrepreneurial development locally and not be fully reliant on the Chamber of Business and Industry – Centre County
  • Rural Residential could be a prime location for small business development
  • Note – be sure to include accessibility as a standard

What is your vision for the Township long-term (next five years)?

  • Land trust
  • Consider turning to residents before staff to come up with solutions to problems
    • Should have several resident working groups that are discussing a variety of problems and proposing solutions
  • Turn issues over to staff with some direction and guidance
  • Cat control (animal control)
    • Do more public outreach and engagement on the dangers of feral cats and the importance of keeping them under control, such as promoting the program to catch, neuter, and release feral cats
  • Expand community events such as Coffee and Conversations and others

Ward II – Ferguson Township Main Meeting Room
August 9, 2016

What do you believe is the biggest challenge the Township will face in the next five years?

  • Growth – residential growth
  • Infrastructure – sewers, roads, etc.
  • Rock Springs Water Company – water service in the western end of the township
  • Consolidation of services – either with the regional municipalities or the county
  • Retention of businesses
  • Preservation and growth of tax base
  • Preservation of farmland and a rich agricultural heritage
    • Continuation of agricultural land preservation efforts through the purchase of conservation easements and Growing Greener
    • Need to assist in promoting the economic viability of agriculture – with zoning and other tools
    • Preservation of forests and wooded areas is also an important issue
  • Be cognizant of commercial growth

What is your vision for the Township in the next year?

  • We are running out of land in Ferguson Township for the purposes of development – elected officials will be required to make some decisions about how we are going to address that shortage
    • Consider “going up” – how can we maximize development potential without creating urban sprawl?
      • There is an educational component to this, as well – residents must be made aware of this issue and what the potential solutions are
      • Concept of redevelopment could be considered – can we improve our growth potential by “going up” in certain places as opposed to sprawling out?

What would be one thing you would change in Ferguson Township if you were a Supervisor?

  • Engaging the community – particularly with issues like redevelopment
  • Pensions – need to address financial problem…from defined benefit to defined contribution
  • Good job with public safety – maintaining safe neighborhoods and communities will be a challenge as costs go up
  • Traffic signals – with the advancements in technology, should work on improving the efficiency of signalization
  • Be attentive to the mission and vision of the taxpayers of Ferguson Township
  • General comment – Consider holding these sessions spread out throughout the year for people who are on vacation
  • Common sense regulation that allows for exceptions to the ordinance without having to go through a lot of red tape
  • Hot button issue is student housing, and how much do we need? Consider holding a regional student housing summit where all represented parties could discuss the future of student housing in the Centre Region. Does the University have to provide all of it or is the community part of the solution, as well?

What do you really like about living in Ferguson Township?

  • All the benefits of living in a rural community while being in close proximity to urban amenities
  • A high degree of pride in living in Ferguson Township
  • Small school/neighborhood school in Ferguson Elementary
  • Small town, safe feeling when living in township
  • Municipal services are good – trash, snowplowing, etc.
  • Open space, bike paths – convenience to amenities

What is the vision for the Township in the next five years? Ten years?

  • Would like to see more value-added agricultural products
    • Residents who can supplement their income in ways that are agriculturally-based
  • Do more research on proposals for development before they come to the floor Fire suppression in the western end of the township – addressing concerns about water supply in the Rock Springs Water Company service area
  • Miscellaneous – general comments
  • Do not build narrow streets
  • Expand community engagement – take advantage of other outlets for communication
  • Development proposal under review signs do not have a specific reference number on them or way to identify them when you call the Township
  • Extend bike paths west – particularly around Ferguson Township Elementary
  • Speed limits along Route 26/45 should be reduced

Ward III – Quality Inn (North Atherton Street)
August 10, 2016


What do you believe is the biggest challenge the Township will face in the next five years?

  • Growth – balancing growth
    • Must balance economic growth and environmental responsibilities/sustainability
    • Sustainability – protecting residents from advance of housing (primarily student housing) and protecting the environment
    • Too much attention is paid to growing student housing stock – they do not generally add revenue
    • Set aside environmentally significant areas
    • Think strategically and long-term rather than be reactionary
      • Low-income and affordable housing
      • Balance short-term growth with long-term effects on other resources (environmental and otherwise
  • Storm water and water quality protection – we are in a unique area with regard to our natural resources Promote local economy without depending on big business
    • Encourage the development of local entrepreneurial efforts and agriculture
  • Receive input from farmers and agriculture community Affordable housing – provide options for people who work in the community but cannot afford to live here and are forced to commute from Phillipsburg and Bellefonte, etc.
    • Develop housing for permanent residents
  • Provide for affordable housing and it will retain local businesses (connectivity between affordable housing and economic development)
  • Consider the impact that Penn State has on the provision (or lack thereof) of student housing on campus
  • Work to promote industry outside of Penn State and service industries
    • Economic development is a large component of the process – what are we doing to attract new businesses?
  • Consider creating resident committees to provide input to staff and the board on certain issues

What is your vision for the Township for the next year?

  • Stormwater – flooding on roadways due to changes in the landscape
    • Review the effectiveness of stormwater management in the Township
  • Have in place a strong, robust sourcewater protection ordinance to protect our water supply See Penn State properties along Whitehall Road undeveloped Construct some housing that the community can afford to live in – encourage development community

If you were an elected supervisor, what would be your highest priority?

  • Listening to the residents
  • Implement a vision where the community could agree on with regard to planning for housing
  • Identify the most critical recharge areas in the township
  • Green Infrastructure Mapping
    • Identify what the priorities are for preservation of resources and determine how to allocate resources toward their acquisition and preservation

What makes Ferguson Township different from the other Centre Region municipalities?

  • Its size – you have rural and urban qualities
  • Quality of life and the protection and preservation of resources we all depend on
  • Close to parks, bike paths, services (grocery stores, etc.), Scotia gamelands
    • Parks – playgrounds, walking paths, and gardening
  • Quality of life – living in the rural area while still in close proximity to urban center General comment – not enough economic diversity in the population Rothrock State Forest Access to local organic farms
  • For economic development and the reduction of the carbon footprint by not relying on the importing of foods
  • Township police and road crew
  • Great staff – plowing, public safety, road maintenance

What don’t you like about living in Ferguson Township?

  • No long-term vision for the protection of resources such as the wellhead recharge area
  • Supervisors seem to be more reactive than proactive
  • Rezoning RA land along Whitehall Road to R-4

What is your vision for the Township in the next five years? Ten years?

  • Protection of environmental resources, water recharge areas, etc.
  • Community-based movement toward renewable energy sources
    • Sustainability in terms of energy
  • Municipal provision of services such as fiber Internet and energy
    • Municipal energy authority or some way of production of electricity through renewables
  • Increasing economic growth via sustainable capitalism
    • Work with the University to improve the quality of life for both the township and the University
  • Investment in affordable housing for residents who are working in the community and paying taxes Discourage unattractive types of development and encourage development that is valued
  • Private roads in Pine Grove Mills that are falling apart – Is there anything the Township can do to improve these private alleys

View Report on Strategic Plan Survey and Focus Groups