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Envision Lancaster County

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency - 2009 - National Award for Smart Growth Achievement

Summary

Like many rural areas, Lancaster County is facing pressure to develop its extensive farmland and open space. In response, the Lancaster County Planning Commission and its member municipalities created Envision Lancaster County, a comprehensive, multi-staged countywide plan to manage growth and maintain the county's distinctive sense of place over the next 25 years.

Description

Like many rural areas, Lancaster County is facing pressure to develop its extensive farmland and open space.

In response, the Lancaster County Planning Commission and its member municipalities created Envision Lancaster County, a comprehensive, multi-staged countywide plan to manage growth and maintain the county's distinctive sense of place over the next 25 years. Envision Lancaster County directs new development to existing towns to protect the farmland, rural areas, and natural landscapes that define the county's character. The plan considers the entire region by promoting reinvestment in existing communities and encouraging more compact, interconnected neighborhoods. By doing so, the plan preserves open space, protects water resources, and provides for greater housing and transportation choices.

One of the defining features of Envision Lancaster County is its emphasis: a balance between protecting natural resources and farmland and encouraging growth and development in appropriate areas. Using the plan's principles, the Lancaster County Agricultural Preserve Board and the Lancaster Farmland Trust worked together to permanently protect almost 82,000 acres of farmland. This effort is helping to keep the local agricultural economy viable. To protect vital watersheds and groundwater recharge areas, the commission worked with the Lancaster County Conservancy and National Lands Trust to preserve nearly 6,000 acres of parks and natural lands throughout the county. This preservation is part of a broader Green Infrastructure Plan that establishes a countywide framework for sustaining natural resources.

The plan directs development to selected growth areas and away from environmentally and agriculturally important land. The newest element of the Growth Management Plan is the Rural Strategy, which goes beyond farmland protection by encouraging municipalities to adopt Rural Areas that are on par with Urban Growth Areas. These areas will be designated for long-term rural uses including agriculture, resource-based economic development, and conservation. In addition, Rural Centers, including villages, will be the focal point for residential development and appropriate support uses.

The commission worked with municipalities to establish 47 Urban Growth Areas and Village Growth Areas. In the city of Lancaster, 62 projects have been completed, are under development, or are planned for development in Growth Areas. These projects will enhance the livability of the city and, ultimately, reduce pressure to develop on rural lands.

Throughout the process, the commission actively engaged the public and local governments. The county's good working relationship with municipalities encouraged them to buy into the plan's principles. To ensure public input, the commission conducted educational workshops and public forums and developed a citizens' task force. The county also reached out to Lancaster's Amish and Plain Sect communities through targeted publications and meetings with religious leaders. This plan will help Lancaster County continue to be a model for communities that balance growth with natural, historic, and cultural preservation.

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Tags: Collaboration/Intergovernmental Cooperation, Economic and Community Development, Government Performance and Management, Public Infrastructure, Sustainability/Green Issues/Environment and Natural Resources





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