The Township of Derry is poised for significant changes in the near term. On behalf of the 88 percent of residents concerned about the environment, we present the following short list of common sense, low cost, realistic policies and practices to fight dangerous and dirty storm water, clean the air, and provide for sustainable growth in Derry Township.
The Township of Derry is in the process of updating its Comprehensive Plan and zoning ordinance. As part of that work, the Township deployed a community survey in 2011, that showed in part that 88 percent of the people want the government to manage development to protect environmental quality, 85 percent want to preserve natural areas, open space and farmland, and 80 percent want to manage development to minimize sprawl. Survey results and other information can be found at DerryVision.org.
A private group has formed to revitalize downtown Hershey (the Downtown Hershey Association at DowntownHershey.net). This effort will present opportunities to address issues affecting the environment, such as traffic, mass transit, parking, building design, tree canopy and green space, among others.
There are a number of areas of the township ripe for development in the next few years as the economy improves, including but not limited to land along Chocolate Avenue (East and West) and Middletown Road that will affect residents’ quality of life for generations.
Extreme weather events are becoming more common. Tropical Storm Lee in 2011, and Hurricane Agnes in 1972, exceeded “100 year flood” expectations. Since 1972, five storms exceeded “50 year flood” expectations. A limited and very expensive program to protect some areas of the township from 50 year floods was recently completed. Riparian buffers along some streams have been improved. However, if these weather trends continue, storm water will continue to flood our streets and basements.
New enlightened government policies can positively affect the type and impact of growth in our community as well as the way we raise our families, commute to work, and spend our retirement.
Policy Priorities for the Environment
We respectfully ask the Derry Township Board of Supervisors to adopt these polices and practices in 2014.
- Along the southern portion of Derry Township in the area know as Sand Hills:
- Stop mowing the grass in Shank Park and other public lands near transmission lines, streams, and other areas not being used for grassland recreational activities, and reforest these areas with native tree species.
- Create a “conservation overlay district” in the zoning ordinance to preserve and plant trees and expand the tree canopy, and promote dense, mixed use development following the Township’s Smart Growth principles.
- Reduce by half the areas being mowed and maintained as manicured lawns by Township staff or contractors along roads, near public buildings, and in all other areas that do not support pedestrian traffic or recreational use. Staff time saved on this activity can be refocused on annual tree planting.
- Set an example of responsible and sustainable land use by not mowing the manicured lawn around the Township Buildings at Clearwater Road and repurposing it with meadows, native trees, rain gardens or similar landscaping.
- Use pervious paving materials for all new sidewalks, parking spaces, driveways and paths
- Provide a preference for pervious paving materials on private developments.
- Require the use of pervious paving materials in public spaces.
- Line public pedestrian trails with native trees.
- The RFP for the update to the comprehensive plan lists a transportation objective on page 7, “Maintain the current bike trail system and expand it to enable commuter use.” This should include plowing the trail in the winter.
- Overcome defects in the zoning ordinance that result in numerous variances from pervious coverage requirements.
- Prefer “green” land development plans that employ sustainable materials, practices and designs.
- Update the tree ordinance with particular attention to enforcing requirements for property owners to replace lost trees.
- Create a storm water utility to fund, build and operate storm water facilities and to provide incentives for environmental mitigation measures, such as rain barrels, native tree planting and others.