A request to rezone the former site of the Lancaster Family YMCA was put on hold Tuesday with city officials seeking more information about the amount and types of housing envisioned for the 3.5-acre property.
Penn Medicine Lancaster General Health wants to rezone eight parcels adjacent to Lancaster General Hospital to “mixed use.”
Six of the lots are currently zoned “hospital complex,” which restricts use primarily to medical facilities and public uses such as schools or city government facilities. The remaining two lots are zoned “high density residential.”
LG Health is asking for the rezoning to allow it to partner with Exton-based developer the Hankin Group, which would build medical and administrative offices for LG Health and develop the residential and retail aspects of the project.
LNP | LancasterOnline previously reported that in a flyer distributed to neighbors of the site, LG Health pointed out that mixed-use zoning would allow a much broader array of potential uses, including “multi-story residential buildings, parking structures, medical offices and commercial/retail uses.”
During its presentation to council, representatives from LG Health and Hankin emphasized that the rezoning was endorsed by the county and city planning commissions and pointed out it fit with the objectives of both city and county comprehensive plans.
But Antonio Callari, an economics professor at Franklin and Marshall College, called those plans out of date and irrelevant to the city’s current day situation.
“The issues now have a lot more to do with gentrification trends and affordability issues for people who are being left out,” Callari said. “It doesn’t look like this plan has anything to do with planning for affordable housing in an area where there are already gentrification trends in place.”
Council members and other residents who commented during Tuesday’s public hearing on the proposal also expressed concerns about the need for more affordable housing and worries any development at the site would exacerbate gentrification issues in the city.
LG Health and Hankin envision a project that would include a new home for LGH’s urgent care facility, medical offices, and other health care facilities along with a ground-floor restaurant and retail space with apartments on the upper floors. Hankin would own the property after it is rezoned, which would put it back on the city’s property tax rolls.
“I appreciate that the representatives from LGH and Hankin were more forthcoming with a lot of answers to our questions about the ultimate use of the site,” said council member Amanda Bakay, who made the motion to table the proposal. “We’re deciding the zoning, but really this is going to lead to the ultimate use of the site.
“To me the answers did not seem to fit the needs of our community, but I do believe we are working in good faith with LGH as a partner in our community and I would like to give them the opportunity to perhaps engage the community a bit more,” Bakay said. “I would like to give them more time to explore additional options for creating additional affordable housing and finding other creative solutions.”
Council voted unanimously to table the proposal until its Aug. 25 meeting and encouraged LG Health to work with community leaders and others to refine its plans in the interim.