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Commissioners approve public land acquisition amendment to comp plan

The Warren County Commissioners have amended the county’s comprehensive plan to take a stand against the further expansion of public lands in Warren County.

A public hearing was held on the amendment before the commissioners acted on the proposal.

Planning Director Michael Lyon said that the “driver” for the update is the “huge amount of land sold in Spring Creek Township to the Pennsylvania Game Commission.”

Just shy of 2,200 acres, Lyon told the commissioners that the land deal included 12 or 13 parcels that had a calculated value of $3.8 million.

Lyon added that 32 percent of the acreage in Warren County is owned by the state or federal government.

“I think we all recognize the benefits” of public land, he said, but pointed out that such transfers do not contribute to the county tax base.

The title of the amendment is “Protect the tax base of the county.”

Lyon said that the county’s municipalities and school district were notified in addition to surrounding counties, municipalities and school districts.

“(We) received a fair amount of letters of support,” Lyon said. “We don’t have a lot of legal standing to stop sales of private property. It’s not going to solve all the problems but it’s a step in the right direction.”

“We’re not the only rural county (that has) included this in our comprehensive plan,” Durbin said, noting Forest Co. has taken a similar stance.

“I believe they (Forest) did have someone interested in buying land,” she said. “This amendment, the verbiage was helpful in not having that sale go through.”

Lyon said he has been told that “other counties who have this, some of the state agencies will recognize that (and) will take that into consideration.”

“That’s all we can ask for,” Durbin said.

The only public comment offered on the language was from Susan Stout.

She highlighted the “myriad other ways in which public land… contributes to the economic wellbeing of the county.”

She said the proposal will address the issue by considering all factors with future land acquisitions, not just the tax base issue.

The commissioners during their subsequent meeting approved the amendment unanimously.

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