Ephratah’s comprehensive plan eyes town center

EPHRATAH – After a year’s work, the town recently drafted its first comprehensive plan, which recommends a new town center,

The Fulton County Planning Board on Tuesday reviewed an executive summary of the document at the Fort Johnstown Annex in Johnstown.

“The town of Ephratah has never had a comprehensive plan,” county Planning Director James Mraz told the board. “This is their first venture.”

The board remained neutral rather than taking a stand either for or against the proposed plan.

“I’m surprised they got through all those years without a comprehensive plan,” board Chairman John Blackmon said.

Mraz said the town’s comprehensive plan process took about one year to complete. He said the volunteer group did a “fantastic job” on the document and kept several “smart growth” principles in mind by encouraging new development in the town’s hamlet areas, while at the same time preserving the rural character of the community.

A key component of Ephratah’s plan is the development of a possible town center along Route 29 – between Route 10 heading south and Route 10 heading north.

“Town Center would be where town residents access items needed for daily life without having to travel long distances,” the plan says.

Some of the different types of developments there could include a gas station, a convenience store, a sandwich-coffee shop, a farmer’s market, boutique shops, a town hall, a post office, senior housing, townhouses and a walking trail.

Mraz said the population of Ephratah is currently about 1,260 residents. He said the town saw a 65 percent increase in population from the 1930s to the 1980s. But since the 1980s, he said the town’s population has leveled off. The number of school-age children has declined significantly.

Mraz said Ephratah has the highest tax rate among the county’s towns at $10.54 per $1,000 of assessed valuation. But he said Ephratah has the highest concentration of publicly-owned land. There are three main watershed properties, some municipally-owned.

He said the message of those putting the plan together was: “We would like to see the town stay as a rural community.” But he said the feeling is also the town needs some growth and development to keep tax rates stable.

Ephratah is looking at possible ordinances, Mraz said.

“At present, the town of Ephratah does not have zoning,” he said.

But he said that although the town doesn’t have any true municipal infrastructure, town officials are discussing small-scale development, such as trying to attract a Stewart’s store.

The Town?Board will hold a public hearing on the draft plan at 6:16 p.m. Oct. 13 at Town?Hall. The plan may be adopted after the hearing.

Michael Anich covers Johnstown and Fulton County news. He can be reached at [email protected].

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