COG: Growth at Exits 62 & 65 “catalyst for Chester County’s future”

Catawba Regional Council of Governments Director Cole McKinney told a group of Chester County’s government leaders development in the area between I-77 Exit 62 and Exit 65 is “a catalyst for Chester County’s future.”
McKinney is the Regional Initiatives and Technology Director for the Catawba Regional Council of Governments (COG), which serves Chester, Lancaster, Union and York Counties.
He is one of two people tasked with developing the Exit 62 & 65 Small Area Plan (SAP).
McKinney briefed the members of the Chester County Leadership Forum on the Exit 62 and 65 Small Area Plan at the Gateway Conference Center recently. The Leadership Forum is made up of representatives of Chester County municipalities, Chester County government and other interested stakeholders.
“When Giti Tire came in, it changed the dynamic of the interchange around Exit 65. We have fully realized it’s not only that area; it goes well beyond there into the City of Chester and the Town of Richburg and even down to Exit 62. This will have an impact on all of that.” McKinney said.
Chester County Council and county Economic Development Director Karlisa Parker began talking to COG a year ago about the need for a Small Area Plan, which would predict what the area might look like over the next five to 10 years.
“It was a fortuitous time for COF to begin a Small Area Plan because there were some comprehensive plans and processes in the county that were also going on,” McKinney said.
He first provided some background on how the SAP came about. The funding was a joint effort through the federal Economic Development Administration and the Chester Development Association and Chester County.
The timing of the development of the SAP couldn’t have worked out better, McKinney said; several local planning initiatives are taking place in and around Chester County.
“We have the Chester County Comprehensive Plan, and the City of Chester is also doing a Comprehensive Plan. The way this works is, the Small Area Plan really doesn’t have any teeth; the instrument by which you implement the recommendations that come out of the Small Area Plan are these comprehensive plans. These comprehensive plans directly impact zoning, so these are very important documents,” McKinney said.
He said the recommendations from the Small Area Plan will hopefully influence the comprehensive plans for both the city and the county.
He showed the map of the area encompassing Exit 62 and 65 and said the Exit 65 interchange has become “more important that ever and there’s potential for development at the Exit 62 corridor as well.”
McKinney pointed out there was a robust existing commercial corridor, especially heading back towards Chester from this area, and COG is seeing that continue to develop. But there are also significant undeveloped assets within the area.
“That’s what the Small Area Plan is about, taking a look at how those areas might develop over the next five to 10 years,” he said.
The goal of the plan is to ensure the future integrity and economic viability of the corridor and be proactive when it comes to growth, and not reactive.
The corridor is a vital corridor for the county, not just vital to Richburg or the City of Chester, but vital to the entire county and, McKinney said, to the region.
He called the area “a catalyst for Chester County’s future.”
McKinney pointed out the Small Area Plan will align with the goals of other economic development groups, such as the I-77 Alliance, the county’s comprehensive planning process, the Chester Development Association and county economic development, which has just completed the Economic Development Strategic Plan. “We want to make sure we are staying true to all of that as well,” McKinney said.
He told the government officials, “you play an enormous role in all of this, because you are a key part in creating a vision for your communities.”
McKinney talked about specialized software the COG was using called Scenario Planning, which assesses different development decisions and can show what the impact will be between several different development scenarios. Impacts on things like infrastructure, taxes and the need for additional emergency workers, for example, can be reported on based on what development scenario is simulated.
McKinney said the development of the plan would likely take a 9-12 month planning process. A Small Area Plan steering committee has already been formed and has met twice. McKinney said the SAP would like to work in tandem with the county’s comprehensive plan. One of the reasons for this is they can take advantage of the public outreach efforts that will be taking place as part of that comp plan process.

By Brian Garner, Staff Reporter with The News & Reporter