Manheim Township has begun laying the groundwork for a major update to its comprehensive plan.
It’s an important step for the township, a key municipality in the county’s suburban core and one contending with the effects of decades of suburban expansion.
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Manheim Township’s existing comp plan dates to 2010. That document describes the community as “well on its way to becoming fully built-out” and documents concerns over traffic congestion, housing prices and pressure on agricultural land.
Over the next 10 years, the township’s population grew by 5,800, or 15% — the biggest increase in Lancaster County. There have been intense battles over projects such as Oregon Village; in 2021, LNP reported that development was the township’s No. 1 political issue.
The township describes its comp plan as “a guide for how we as a community will manage change in both the short term and long term for land use and the public facilities and services necessary to support that growth.”
The revisions will bring the 2010 plan into conformity with Pennsylvania’s Municipalities Planning Code, Lancaster County’s “Connections 2040” comprehensive transportation plan and the plans of neighboring jurisdictions, including Lancaster city, which is finalizing its first new comp plan since 1993.
Planning for the future
Manheim Township’s timeline for the update process calls for “establish(ing) guiding values and community vision” through this summer, leading into an analysis of “assets, opportunities and challenges” over the fall and winter. Much of 2024 will be taken up by the development of goals and policy, leading to the finalization and adoption of the updates by January 2025.
“Our process is going to be iterative and agile,” said Anthony Vallone, Manheim Township’s Community Development Manager, who recently came to the team from Hillsborough County in Florida, the home county of Tampa.
“We have overlapping things going on as you move through that timeline,” he said.
Strictly speaking, the process hasn’t formally kicked off yet, Vallone said. The township is still in the preliminary phase, laying the groundwork.
It has convened a comprehensive plan committee, which is scheduled to meet monthly at the municipal building.
Vallone described the group as an advisory board and “filter” that works with project teams.
It is one of several committees and boards working on the plan, with a diversity of opinion, along with advisory boards like the pathways committee and the sustainability committee, and the township’s park and recreation board.
Some of the boards, he said, are appointed, some are not. Each of them, he added, works with “stakeholder groups,” including members of the public at large.
“It’s a working group,” Vallone said.
While the comp plan committee’s meetings are open to the public, they are not intended as venues for public input.
Rather, once the preliminaries are completed and the main update process begins, the township envisions soliciting public input through an “enhanced community engagement process.” It has put out a request for proposals, or RFP, seeking a consultant to help it create “an equitable Community Engagement Plan … that is innovative, reaches a broad swath of the community, and allows for meaningful feedback.” The due date for responses is next Tuesday, Aug. 8.
The RFP specifies that the consultant “will ensure public engagement activities coincide with on-going Manheim Township initiatives and are posted on the Manheim Township webpage” and will coordinate scheduling with Vallone.
Besides three public workshops and pop-up neighborhood events, the RFP calls for developing a “Meeting in a Box” option — a strategy Lancaster city used in its comp plan’s community engagement. The RFP describes it this way:
“Township staff will provide a toolkit in order to empower residents to hold meetings about the Manheim Township’s future in their own space and without government oversight. The number of meetings will be determined at a later date based on staff recommendations. A needs analysis will be provided early in the process as well as a reimbursement regimen for the host entities.”
Enumerating the ways that the public can get involved, Vallone talked about events, online options and more.
“There are a lot of different touch points,” Vallone said.
The township website refers to “public workshops,” “pop-up and neighborhood events” and “online engagement.” The goal is to ensure the updates are developed “with the input, guidance, and consent of all our citizens” through a process that is as inclusive as possible, it says.