On October 24, 2018, the Lancaster County Board of Commissioners will consider the adoption of Places2040, the new proposed comprehensive plan for Lancaster County.  Prepared by the Lancaster County Planning Commission (“LCPC”) and designed to replace Envision Lancaster County, the County’s current comprehensive plan, Places2040 seeks to establish land use and planning policy to guide the next 20 years of development in Lancaster County. Adoption of the proposed Plan would complete a 3-year planning process that engaged County residents, government entities and targeted stakeholders. Only 94 pages in length, Places2040 is surprisingly concise when compared to typical comprehensive plans and is centered around 5 “Big Ideas”: 1) Creating Great Places; 2) Connecting People, Place & Opportunity; 3) Taking Care of What We Have; 4) Growing Responsibly; and 5) Thinking Beyond Boundaries.

As Lancaster County continues to grow, one of the focuses of the Plan is establishing a path for the County to absorb and accommodate a projected population increase of 100,000 people between 2015 and 2040.  Some of the Plan’s recommendations include “building up, not out” (favoring taller structures with reduced building footprints) and increasing housing density in urban areas. The Plan also establishes a goal of achieving a county-wide average residential density of 7.5 dwelling units per acre inside Urban Growth Areas (“UGAs”).  To meet this overall goal, UGAs are broken-down into multiple tiers.  For example, an average residential density of 9.0+ dwelling units per acre is proposed for the Central Lancaster County UGA, while a target of 5.5 dwelling units per acre is recommended in more rural areas (including the Solanco and Christian-Gap UGAs).

Places2040 also acknowledges the difficulty that developers face in planning projects in the County, where rules and regulations governing land use and development differ from one municipality to the next.  The Plan notes that Lancaster County is comprised of 60 separate municipalities (1 city, 18 boroughs and 41 townships), each of which is responsible for making its own land use decisions.  As a result, Lancaster County has 60 municipal planning commissions, 60 separate zoning ordinances, and over 500 individual zoning districts.  To address these challenges, Places2040, which is subtitled “Thinking Beyond Boundaries”, recommends consolidating the number of zoning districts and considering the adoption of regional zoning ordinances.  Additionally, in a move likely to delight developers, the Plan suggests that municipalities establish more uses that are “permitted by right” to minimize the discretionary review process, reduce costs, and provide for greater consistency.

The final public draft of Places2040 and other information about the Plan is available at https://www.places2040.com/.  LCPC will continue to accept comments on the Plan until October 24 by email at info@places2040.com or by mail addressed to the Lancaster County Planning Commission, 150 North Queen Street, Suite 320, Lancaster, PA 17603.