Correction: An earlier version of this article erroneously reported that West Donegal Township supervisors were not at the regional meeting. West Donegal Township Supervisor J. Clair Hilsher was present.
Local governments should encourage residential development at greater density to prevent development from sprawling into rural areas, a county planning official told elected officials from the Elizabethtown area.
The county’s population is expected to grow by about 114,000 people by the year 2040, Scott Standish of the Lancaster County Planning Commission said at a joint meeting of elected officials from the Elizabethtown area held at the Mount Joy Township building on Thursday, Aug. 31. Standish said about half of that growth is coming from people moving to the county and the other half coming from more people being born here than dying each year.
Standish said at the current rate of 4.4 dwelling units per acre of land, the designated urban growth areas of the county will need to be expanded into areas now reserved for farming and other rural uses. But with homes built on smaller lots and more multi-family buildings such as apartment houses, the county can avoid that problem, Standish said. Also, with higher-density housing built near major workplaces, there will be less traffic on the region’s roads than there would be otherwise.
Standish advised municipal officials that they should write zoning regulations so high-density developments are allowed by right instead of requiring developers to apply for special exceptions.
Elizabethtown Borough Council member Neil Ketchum said he was concerned that high-density housing could cause problems for the Elizabethtown Area School District because it would have to educate more children.
Matthew J. Creme Jr., a lawyer from the firm Nikolaus & Hohenadel, said his firm represents municipalities in four counties and he has also represented developers of high-density housing. He said school districts are required by the state to plan 10 years in advance for expected population changes. He said school districts are not bothered by higher-density housing because they do not change the total number of children attending schools.
“We’re not increasing the number of people; we’re just housing them differently,” Creme said.
In other business, municipal leaders updated each other on their projects. Elizabethtown Borough Manager Roni Ryan said the borough is working on regulating the practice of people renting out rooms in their homes to travelers who book them over websites.
J. Clair Hilsher was the only West Donegal Township supervisor to attend the meeting. The township was also represented by Wayne Miller, its zoning and code enforcement officer. Miller said re-assembly of the Star Barn is continuing. The 19th century barn was taken apart at its original location near Middletown and taken to West Donegal Township piece by piece. Miller said one bridge carrying Bainbridge Road over the Conoy Creek has reopened after being replaced this year; the other one is estimated to reopen on Sept. 19.
Mount Joy Township Manager Justin Evans said the new township building where the meeting was held is one major project; another is the new park being constructed on Beverly Road, which should have more parking available for the Conewago Recreation Trail in 2018 and have playing fields available for use the following year.
Conoy Township supervisors did not attend the meeting, but Creme, their solicitor, said the new Perdue AgriBusiness soybean processing plant should be receiving soybeans in September and another leg of the Northwest Lancaster County River Trail north of Bainbridge is in the works.