An independent news publication of
United Way of Lancaster County


Columbia 2040: Borough’s new comprehensive plan emphasizes walkability, revitalization, tourism

(Sources: Columbia Borough, Discover Columbia, Discover Lancaster)

It had been nearly three decades since Columbia Borough had a new comprehensive plan.

That changed on Tuesday night, with borough council voting to adopt Columbia 2040, an all-new comp plan that charts a course for the next 20 to 25 years.

The previous plan, adopted in 1995, lead to changes such as the rerouting of Route 441, construction of the River Park and Columbia Crossings River Trails Center.

The new plan is expected, in some ways, to go much bigger. It focuses on neighborhoods and growth, on improving quality of life within Columbia while also making it more appealing to visitors.

Before the vote

 As borough council prepared to vote on adoption of the plan Tuesday evening, Mayor Leo Lutz praised the work of those who put it together.

“That’s a lot of work,” he said. “It’s not easy work. It’s monumental.”

He suggested the plan could use an executive summary that would help people to digest its contents.

“There was always an executive summary,” he said in reference to past work on similar plans, “that basically told you what was in it, so that if you had questions, you could open that up.”

Borough manager Mark Stivers cited “big, unique things” in the plan, including work on neighborhood development in a section of the plan titled “A Place Called Home.”

“It’s not just what government does for us,” he said. “(It’s) what can we do for each other.”

He cited the Adopt-a-Block program as an example of implementable solutions and said there is lots in the plan to help promote Columbia as a destination.  

“We focus on attracting more people to town,” he said. “We want to get them from the fringe (of the town,) downtown.”

“Any citizen can look at it,” said Councilwoman Barbara Fisher, calling Columbia2040 “understandable” and “implementable.”

“It’s going to make sense to them – they’re going to be excited about it. Everybody can get involved in this.”

‘Bold ideas’

Here’s a little about what you can find in the new comprehensive plan.

First, it consists of two separate documents – a compendium, reflecting existing conditions and goals; and an implementation guide, with strategies and action steps.

An ad hoc committee assisted with developing the plan, saying this about its conception: “We need to focus on what we are going to be, as opposed to focusing on what we are not.”

The plan is organized around five “bold ideas,” as follows:

  • More Feet in the Street
  • A Place to Call Home
  • A Skilled and Educated Community
  • Telling Our Story
  • Creating, Maintaining, and Sustaining a Complete Community

In the compendium, a chapter called “A Rivertown’s Planning Tale” covers information on the original planning of the town by Sam Wright in the 1700s, and other events as recent as the 2010 Economic Development Strategic Plan, the results of which fed into creation of Columbia 2040.

“The energy in Columbia Borough is noticeable,” planners write. “It feels as though the Borough is poised for a rebirth.”

Columbia’s existing land use map, left, and the future land use map proposed in Columbia 2040. Click each image to enlarge. (Source: Columbia 2040)

The implementation guide, weighing in at 130 pages, goes over how borough government, its partners and community stakeholders will work together to bring the five bold ideas to fruition.

Among other things, it proposes improving streetscapes downtown and along the riverfront; increasing marketing efforts and promoting river-oriented tourism and recreation; reforming regulations to foster “missing middle” housing construction; promoting homeownership; creating a downtown “mobility hub” with bus service and rideshare access; and intensifying efforts to promote public health and facilitate older residents’ ability to remain in their homes.

It notes that Columbia 2040 aligns with Places 2040, Lancaster County’s comprehensive plan, and embraces its principles, including zoning simplification, infrastructure enhancement and regional collaboration.

Stivers said Columbia 2040 is not just a document that meets state requirements, but is something that stakeholders will be able to keep referring to year by year going forward.

It “truly reflects where we, in this community, see value and purpose,” he said.