State of the County

Tom Baldrige is president and CEO of the Lancaster Chamber.

Last year, the Lancaster County commissioners took action to officially approve Places 2040, the latest iteration of the county’s comprehensive plan for managing land use and growth for the next 20-plus years.

The vote was unanimous, and the public comment offered at the meeting was nearly unanimous in its support.

The plan was a result of almost three years of work by the county planning commission, work that involved dozens of local organizations, hundreds of elected officials and thousands of residents from throughout Lancaster County. The plan was developed through a wide net of input and, at the end, it was overwhelmingly supported by everyone.

Yet, the hard work and long time it took to develop the plan actually may prove to be the easy part.

You see, in Pennsylvania, county comprehensive plans are merely suggestive. They lay out a countywide view of what development and land-use should look like to ensure our future success, yet all the decisions to actually implement the plan are made at the local level.

Therefore what is one, countywide comprehensive plan actually relies on the individual decisions at our 60 local municipalities to ensure implementation. And it is always where the rubber-hits-the-road that plans like these really get put to the test.

Such is the case with the current Oregon Village project being proposed in Manheim Township, which calls for a density of housing consistent with the recommendations in Places 2040.

The project is located in an area that will have water and sewer infrastructure and is adjacent to existing commercial and residential development and, as such, serves as a mixed-use development. Part of the project involves the redevelopment of a long-abandoned site that has been underutilized for years while being centrally located in an area well-served by the county’s transportation infrastructure.

All of those attributes are important tenets called for in the Places 2040 report.

Further, the plan calls for enhanced amenities for the area, such as walking trails, greenways and secure open space that will provide convenient access to dining, shopping, recreation and employment opportunities.

I am fully confident that had this plan been discussed in the abstract during any of the planning meetings for Places 2040, there would have been widespread support.

The challenge, however, with this project — and many others — is that it isn’t abstract.It’s real. It takes up real land, generating real traffic and inciting people who are worried about their own back yards (and I am not noting this dismissively). But more often than not, such is the case with many proposed developments throughout Lancaster County.

Yet, we all know we must grow if we are to continue to thrive. And we must find a way to manage that growth to ensure our long-term success as a county.

The Lancaster Chamber believes the Places 2040 Plan provides the appropriate road map. And, further, the Lancaster Chamber believes the Oregon Village project offers the appropriate components to be consistent with that plan.

For sure, these decisions are never easy. There are always winners and losers, all of whom often have valid points to their argument. To that end, I admire the due diligence the Manheim Township commissioners have been undertaking to ensure a full review of this project.

But ultimately, difficult decisions are required if our Lancaster County is going to continue to advance into the future ensuring the most effective land-use for our countywide, long-term success. We believe this project meets that criteria and will contribute positively to Lancaster County’s future.

• Tom Baldrige is president and CEO of the Lancaster Chamber.

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