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ScrantonWilkesBarre

BoWash

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As a lifelong resident of Scranton/Wilkes-Barre here in beautiful Northeastern Pennsylvania, I'd like to ask you all what, if anything, can be done to prevent our historic region from further falling to the clutches of greedy housing developers looking to cash in on our cheap land in order to provide more McMansions for urban dwellers to our East seeking a "better quality of life for their families" in exchange for a "brief" 90-minute commute? I may only be 19, but I've already seen some drastic changes occur in our region. Pike County in the Poconos is no longer considered part of the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre media market, and is no longer covered by WNEP-16, WBRE-28, WYOU-22, or any other local television station, since the US Census Bureau has now annexed it with the New York MSA. Nearby Monroe County has visibly become ravaged by sprawl with its bumper-to-bumper traffic, massive housing developments, spike in violent crime, etc., and I suspect that soon it will too lose its connection to Pennsylvania and likewise become part of the New York City MSA by the year 2010.

As Monroe and Pike Counties begin to "fill up", BoWash has continued to move further northward and westward. For example, at one point the development stopped at the Delaware Water Gap/Stroudsburg area. However, housing developments have since continued to spread further northwestward through Monroe County into Mount Pocono, and then into Tobyhanna, which borders Lackawanna County (home to Scranton), and Blakeslee, which borders Luzerne County (home to Wilkes-Barre). Up until now, development had once again cooled, and BoWash seemed to have spared Scranton/Wilkes-Barre from a similar fate to that of the Poconos. However, real estate trends over the past year or so have hinted that the communities bordering the Poconos are now likewise "heating up." Once BoWash does officially seep into Luzerne and Lackawanna Counties, then there's nothing to stop it from rolling northwestward another 15 minutes into the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre area. In extreme southern Lackawanna County, near the Monroe County line, the North Pocono School District is already planning construction of a new, larger high school to accomodate the future aniticipated growth of the district, which has already been seen in such new neighborhoods such as "Harmony Hills", "Madison Meadows", "Jefferson Estates", etc. I even saw one new housing development in this area advertising its "easy commute to the metro" as a major selling point to prospective homebuyers, which turned my stomach a bit---They weren't referring to the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre MSA, just 15 minutes away. They were referencing the NYC metro, 90 minutes away!

In extreme eastern Luzerne County, there has been no "growth management policy" established by Buck Township, Bear Creek Township, White Haven, or any other rural community that abuts congested Monroe County. So far, we've only seen ONE instance of BoWash here in the way of "LaurelBrook Estates" in Bear Creek Township, an enclave of $500,000-$1,000,000+ homes "convenient to commuter arteries." Some research with the county recorder of deeds confirmed my suspicions---MANY of the lots purchased here fell into the hands of residents of NJ/NY. Believe it or not, "LaurelBrook Estates" happens to lie in the Wilkes-Barre Area School District, which means that BoWash will soon be impacting the city's urban schools. While years of population decline have allowed the city's three high schools to become a bit empty, the expected growth of the Bear Creek Township, Buck Township area, which lies along Highway 115, the main gateway between I-80 and Wilkes-Barre, will soon have those empty seats filled up. Scranton is likewise just fifteen minutes from the North Pocono area of Lackawanna County, and similar issues will be arising here as well.

What worries me the most is just the sheer indifference of EVERYONE around me! I-81, the main beltway that links Scranton and Wilkes-Barre was built to handle just 40,000 vehicles daily on its four lanes back in the 1960s. Now, it handles more than 80,000, and is bumper-to-bumper at rush-hour, with people being forced sometimes to STOP on onramps to merge into traffic! With "no funding available" to widen this beltway, what will happen when new residents from NY/NJ also begin to utilize I-81 on a daily basis, pushing traffic counts well above 100,000? There are no plans in place for carpool incentives, inter-county trolley/bus service, a commuter rail line between the two cities, etc., which means that I-81 will just continue to get worse. Also, I forgot to mention that BoWash will flood into Scranton more speedily once the new commuter rail line is established between Scranton and Hoboken, NJ in the next few years.

-Our police forces locally are understaffed and far too ill-equipped to cope with the expected increase in gang/urban violence associated with this growth (As we've already seen with the violent crime spike in the Poconos)

-Our school districts currently have no plans in place to handle expected sudden enrollment spikes (Students had class in HALLWAYS in some Pocono schools while officials scrambled to build new, larger facilities).

-There are no "growth boundaries" in place, which means that the current suburban "hot spots" for the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre area, such as the Back Mountain, Mountain Top, and Abingtons, will only continue to become more urbanized once BoWash sweeps in.

-Local roadways are too narrow to cope with current traffic issues, let alone the thousands of additional vehicles that are expected to arrive with BoWash. I-81 will be pushed to THREE times its capacity when BoWash hits. Highway 315, the Cross Valley Freeway, Highway 115, and other arteries that link existing suburban areas to both Scranton and Wilkes-Barre will become bumper-to-bumper.

-The wages of local residents will NOT climb quickly enough to compensate for the expected dramatic increase in our cost-of-living. Currently, the typical NEPA resident earns $10,000 LESS than the national average, based on our median household incomes. Meanwhile, the NEPA Business Journal recently reported a record year for real estate in which the median home selling price in our area jumped to $232,000! When property taxes, real estate prices, and other expenses jump while local incomes remain low, you're going to see some EXTREME economic backlash from "natives" as they blame the "newcomers" with their six-figure urban commuter salaries for their resulting hardships.

-Currently, our area is 97% white, non-hispanic with a strong Christian heritage that makes it hostile towards gays and minorities of other faiths. There are no "mediation" programs in place to help new minorities from the cities to cope with racism, prejudice, and homophobia that WILL occur in Scranton/Wilkes-Barre due to our population which tends to be underexposed to diversity, resistant and fearful of change, and generally illiterate. In the Poconos, some schools had to be closed due to threats and racial tensions between "natives" and "newcomers." I expect the same to happen here as well.

What can be done to save Scranton/Wilkes-Barre? I've already contacted some local officials to no avail. If our local residents likewise do not care, then should I just sit by and watch the region become a cess pool? Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated. Thank you.

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^^Welcome to the forum SWB, hope u like it here.

I'm glad to see the NE part of the commonwealth be represented on this board some. I wouldn't go as far as to describe things as a "cesspool" but I will give you some insight I have learned from long long experience dealing with local issues and state response to those issues here near Pittsburgh.

The state and it's representatives have with the strong township and municipality handicaps carried over from centuries ago (something sunbelt states DON'T deal with) grown accustomed to playing off the fears and greed of local officials and their fiefdom like view of the world (the only thing that's important is my .5 square miles or my township bounds) because suburbs lock in the center cities in this state (something you wouldn't find in Florida, Arizona, Texas, etc. etc.) state legislators with the power to take us boldy into the 21st century instead just placate the outdated "190 fiefdoms" in each county mentality and play one off the other for their own benefit.

The result is--as you may guess--a good and unique .5 sq. miles here and 20 sq. miles of township and on and on, and no "regional" or comprehensive plan for a metroplex that would be similar to a plan Houston or Phoenix or Orlando are instituting through annexation and/or streamlined suburbs (Dallas for instance has the city, the county and Arlington and Plano to make regional plans, unlike Pennsylvania cities that have dozens of townships, boros etc. etc. to get regional things done).

The short of it is that the problem is more with how Harrisburg runs this state, focusing on each and every lil burg instead of regional goverments, why is simple, our legislators were put in power by a system of township, boro, and city alliances, they are too weak bellyed to give Pennsylvania a system that works like the sunbelt cities have.

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Pike County in the Poconos is no longer considered part of the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre media market, and is no longer covered by WNEP-16, WBRE-28, WYOU-22, or any other local television station, since the US Census Bureau has now annexed it with the New York MSA. Nearby Monroe County has visibly become ravaged by sprawl with its bumper-to-bumper traffic, massive housing developments, spike in violent crime, etc., and I suspect that soon it will too lose its connection to Pennsylvania and likewise become part of the New York City MSA by the year 2010.

Thats crazy. You only have to go just southwest of Middlesex County, NJ into Mercer County, NJ as it is no longer part of the NYC television viewing area! This is just less than 50 "air" miles to the southwest of midtown Manhattan! Into Bucks County, you have many towns like Morrisville, Bensalem, Langhorne, Falls Twp and the list goes on that is right off US Highway 1 that many commute to NYC for cheaper cost of living when Philadelphia is RIGHT there!

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Thats crazy. You only have to go just southwest of Middlesex County, NJ into Mercer County, NJ as it is no longer part of the NYC television viewing area! This is just less than 50 "air" miles to the southwest of midtown Manhattan! Into Bucks County, you have many towns like Morrisville, Bensalem, Langhorne, Falls Twp and the list goes on that is right off US Highway 1 that many commute to NYC for cheaper cost of living when Philadelphia is RIGHT there!

Yes, it may be crazy, but it's the sad truth. When residents of Pike County (Milford, Matamoras, PA, etc.) began to fire up inquiries on the online message board of TalkBack 16 (associated with WNEP-TV in Scranton) regarding a lack of news coverage, a reply was handed down from the webmaster that stated that Pike County was now in the NYC market because it was determined through Neilsen that more households in Pike County were tuning into NYC-area stations for information than to the Scranton-area stations. Who loses here? The people of Pike County, who are now considered "not worthy" of being covered by the Scranton market if not enough households are watching to boost their ratings and justify sending reporters nearly an hour away to Milford for a story, and "not worthy" of being covered by the NYC stations, due to its far-flung distance. In turn, people here will obviously receive emergency information from the Scranton stations, but they can kiss the days of seeing high school sports highlights, community festivals, etc. highlighted good-bye, and they only have themselves to blame by opting to tune into the NYC stations instead of the Scranton ones.

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^^Welcome to the forum SWB, hope u like it here.

I'm glad to see the NE part of the commonwealth be represented on this board some. I wouldn't go as far as to describe things as a "cesspool" but I will give you some insight I have learned from long long experience dealing with local issues and state response to those issues here near Pittsburgh.

The state and it's representatives have with the strong township and municipality handicaps carried over from centuries ago (something sunbelt states DON'T deal with) grown accustomed to playing off the fears and greed of local officials and their fiefdom like view of the world (the only thing that's important is my .5 square miles or my township bounds) because suburbs lock in the center cities in this state (something you wouldn't find in Florida, Arizona, Texas, etc. etc.) state legislators with the power to take us boldy into the 21st century instead just placate the outdated "190 fiefdoms" in each county mentality and play one off the other for their own benefit.

The result is--as you may guess--a good and unique .5 sq. miles here and 20 sq. miles of township and on and on, and no "regional" or comprehensive plan for a metroplex that would be similar to a plan Houston or Phoenix or Orlando are instituting through annexation and/or streamlined suburbs (Dallas for instance has the city, the county and Arlington and Plano to make regional plans, unlike Pennsylvania cities that have dozens of townships, boros etc. etc. to get regional things done).

The short of it is that the problem is more with how Harrisburg runs this state, focusing on each and every lil burg instead of regional goverments, why is simple, our legislators were put in power by a system of township, boro, and city alliances, they are too weak bellyed to give Pennsylvania a system that works like the sunbelt cities have.

I wholheartedly agree with you, and thanks for the kind welcome! Our state's local governments are too fractured, and this lack of cohesion and cooperation between different municipalities leads not only to confusion, but also to that "fiefdom" mentality to which you referenced. Several prime examples can be found here in my hometown of Pittston Township, a growing suburb midway between Scranton and Wilkes-Barre. When a resident of Dupont, a nearby borough, approached the board of supervisors at a meeting to request a change in trucking routes to alleviate downhill truck traffic into a residential neighborhood full of children, he was nearly BOOED out of the room by some of my fellow township residents who didn't want to hear about the "possible negative consequences to township businesses to pacify an outsider." Whenever I ask if the township has the region's best interest in mind when approving such new businesses as a Wal-Mart Supercenter, Home Depot, Bass Pro Shop, etc., I'm told "this will help the TOWNSHIP'S bottom line." Nevertheless, our nearby downtown and once-charming Main Street, which happens to be in Pittston City, a different municipality, is suffering greatly, unable to compete with this new retail chain competition in the township. I'm proposing forming a cooperative committee comprised of officials in the ENTIRE school district, which encompasses eight municipalities, to meet monthly to discuss DISTRICT-WIDE concerns. These meetings would permit officials to see how their decisions are hurting neighboring towns, and possibly their OWN towns in the long run, and will enable them to keep more than their "border" in mind when making a decision that can affect many more square miles around that imaginary line. A new industrial park will soon be helping our township but also hurting that same Dupont neighborhood currently plagued by speeding downhill tractor-trailers. New chain stores will help OUR bottom line, but it has already killed off several mom-and-pop operations in nearby towns. Tourists WILL come to a town for a charming, tree-lined Main Street with unique stores. They will NOT come to a town for a Super Wal-Mart, Home Depot, etc., but nobody in my community has enough foresight to plan for some sort of cooperative "smart growth."

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I wonder what would happen if the average Pennsylvanian (many of whom never ventured out into the "new economy" or "sunbelt" cities or metros for long enough to realize how EASY government makes setting up business there and developing the metroplex in smart and efficient ways) realize how vastly inefficent and wasteful Pennsylvania's township and tough as heck annexation and consolidation.

We really should start running for statewide office (house) with these ideas, Harrisburg needs to change before we seen any substantive change on the local level.

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Here's a map of the TV markets of the United States. You'll note that the WB/S market is not much smaller than the NYC market in terms of territory covered.

I don't know when Pike County moved into the NYC market, but I don't believe it was recently- I recall it being part of New York in the 90s as well.

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The Washington, DC viewing area gobbled up two PA counties. Ive always wondered if the housing developments off I-81 in south central PA (Franlin & Adams counties) are linked to DC sprawl?

If so, damn!!!!!!!

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The area around Gettysburg has become a bit of a bedroom community for some DC-area commuters...also some retiree type communities are going in there.

In southern York county, a lot of new houses near I-83 are for Baltimore/DC commuters.

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In southern York county, a lot of new houses near I-83 are for Baltimore/DC commuters.

The devolpment in southern York county is aimed for people commuting toward Hunt Valley, Towson and Baltimore, not necessariarly DC (that is still a good 2 hrs away). A lot of my friends I went to college with (graduated today) lived all of their lives down there and is seeing lots of the farmland being turned into Walmarts and houses on 1/4 of an acre.

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What your region needs to do is develop a comprehensive plan for the metro area of Scranton Wilkes-Barre. I'm not from that area, but lived nearby for a summer. It'll be hard to convince people and governments that they need to do this, but it is essential for shaping development and containing it.

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I wholheartedly agree with you, and thanks for the kind welcome! Our state's local governments are too fractured, and this lack of cohesion and cooperation between different municipalities leads not only to confusion, but also to that "fiefdom" mentality to which you referenced. Several prime examples can be found here in my hometown of Pittston Township, a growing suburb midway between Scranton and Wilkes-Barre. When a resident of Dupont, a nearby borough, approached the board of supervisors at a meeting to request a change in trucking routes to alleviate downhill truck traffic into a residential neighborhood full of children, he was nearly BOOED out of the room by some of my fellow township residents who didn't want to hear about the "possible negative consequences to township businesses to pacify an outsider." Whenever I ask if the township has the region's best interest in mind when approving such new businesses as a Wal-Mart Supercenter, Home Depot, Bass Pro Shop, etc., I'm told "this will help the TOWNSHIP'S bottom line." Nevertheless, our nearby downtown and once-charming Main Street, which happens to be in Pittston City, a different municipality, is suffering greatly, unable to compete with this new retail chain competition in the township. I'm proposing forming a cooperative committee comprised of officials in the ENTIRE school district, which encompasses eight municipalities, to meet monthly to discuss DISTRICT-WIDE concerns. These meetings would permit officials to see how their decisions are hurting neighboring towns, and possibly their OWN towns in the long run, and will enable them to keep more than their "border" in mind when making a decision that can affect many more square miles around that imaginary line. A new industrial park will soon be helping our township but also hurting that same Dupont neighborhood currently plagued by speeding downhill tractor-trailers. New chain stores will help OUR bottom line, but it has already killed off several mom-and-pop operations in nearby towns. Tourists WILL come to a town for a charming, tree-lined Main Street with unique stores. They will NOT come to a town for a Super Wal-Mart, Home Depot, etc., but nobody in my community has enough foresight to plan for some sort of cooperative "smart growth."

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Tough break. I bet thousands of people are having second thoughts about that suburban lifestyle now.

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