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United Way of Lancaster County


‘Our Future Lancaster’: City adopts its new comprehensive plan

Flanked by Douglas Smith, left, and Chris Delfs, City Councilwoman Faith Craig, chair of council’s Community Planning Committee, holds “Our Future Lancaster” after its adoption on Tuesday, Oct. 24, 2023. Smith is the city’s chief planner; Delfs is its director of community planning & economic development. (Photo: Tim Stuhldreher)

City Council made it official Tuesday evening, voting 6-0 to adopt “Our Future Lancaster,” the city’s first comprehensive plan since 1993.

“Enthusiastically, aye!” City Council President Amanda Bakay said as she cast the sixth and final vote. One member was absent, Councilwoman Katie Walsh.

More than three years in the making, the comprehensive plan incorporates an unprecedented level of community engagement and input, Director of Community Planning & Economic Development Chris Delfs said.

Breakdown by city sector of in-person attendance at events related to the comprehensive plan. (Source: City of Lancaster)

Going forward, it calls for the city to expand its downtown “urban center” and focus on dense development and “infill” redevelopment. It envisions a greater variety of allowable building types and uses in neighborhoods and more commercial development in corridors such as South Duke Street and Manor Street.

It reimagines the Conestoga riverfront as an environmental and recreational resource and anticipates major changes at large sites such as Park City Center and the County Prison.

While the plan takes effect immediately, many of its recommendations will require additional legislative action in coming months and years. In particular, the city will need to amend its zoning and land development codes.

In his comments to City Council, Delfs listed what he considers the plan’s most important outcomes:

  • Encouraging more housing diversity and quality;
  • Encouraging commercial uses that serve their surrounding neighborhoods;
  • Creation of a “compelling and coherent vision” for the Conestoga riverfront;
  • Placing environmental sustainability “at the heart of the city’s economic success”;
  • Prioritizing green infrastructure, parks and open space;
  • Promoting safe, efficient transportation of all types and modes;
  • Advancing resident health, wellness and social engagement.

As required by state law, Tuesday’s meeting included a formal hearing, transcribed by a court reporter, before City Council’s vote. Chief Planner Douglas Smith entered 10 exhibits into the record, including public comments; the city Planning Commission’s recommendation and associated minutes; and a package of last-minute edits.

Exhibit No. 4 catalogued the comments of the entities that were entitled to comment during a 45-day review period that ended Oct. 14: The county Planning Commission, the School District of Lancaster and neighboring municipalities. All the comments were supportive, Smith said.

Nonprofits were well represented among the city’s partners in the comprehensive plan’s development. (Source: City of Lancaster)

Representatives of several nonprofits stepped up during the hearing to endorse the plan. Its emphasis on affordable housing is “a tremendous step forward,” said Shelby Nauman, CEO of Tenfold. Allyson Gibson, executive director of Clean Water Partners, praised its environmental provisions.

Marshall Snively is president of Lancaster City Alliance, which collaborated with the city to form the comprehensive plan’s steering committee and oversees Building on Strength, the city’s economic development strategy. The alliance welcomes the new plan and will revisit Building on Strength to make sure it aligns, he said.

Amos Stoltzfus, director of Tenfold’s SoWe neighborhood group and a city Planning Commission member, extolled the city’s public engagement effort.

Still, there were dissenting voices. Darlene Byrd, who leads South Ann Concerned Neighbors, thanked Smith for addressing a number of concerns she had raised previously about the plan, but said many priorities of the southeast’s residents still go unmentioned. What about the park they said their area needs? What about their ideas for expanding mixed-use zoning?

“When will we be heard? … There’s nothing representing what we’re telling you,” she said.

Southwest city resident Yaima Lopez thanked Smith and the comprehensive plan development team for engaging residents of all walks of life. It can’t stop there, she said: Listening, by itself, won’t overcome historical and structural inequities.

“Let’s work,” she said. “It’s time for change.”