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West Donegal Twp. Running Out of Land for Developments

West Donegal Township is approaching the point where developers will have no more land to develop, Township Manager John O. Yoder III said.

Although there is plenty of undeveloped land in the 15.6-square-mile township that borders Elizabethtown Borough, Yoder noted that much of that is in preserved farms or is zoned in a way that housing developments cannot be built there. One third of the township’s land is preserved farms. Yoder was the keynote speaker at the meeting of the Elizabethtown Rotary Club on Friday, Aug. 30; he said he expects that township to be out of developable land in 15 to 20 years, a situation similar to Elizabethtown Borough.

That does not, however, include that land owned by Masonic Village. Yoder said he expects Masonic Village to build several hundred more cottages because those a quick way to make money as more Baby Boomers move into retirement communities.

However, Yoder noted that regional planning by the Lancaster County Planning Commission’s Places 2040 plan has a goal of increasing the density of existing developments rather than spreading development out.

“They want to densify the land that is developed,” Yoder said.

A bright spot for the township is the Conewago Industrial Park, where Amazon recently opened a delivery hub. Amazon is waiting on permits from the state to build parking lots it will need to operate at full capacity; it is currently leasing space in the parking lot of the former Darrenkamp’s supermarket in Mount Joy Township.

The industrial park as a whole is nearing the point where it will be fully occupied. Yoder said it is in an excellent location since it has easy access to Route 283 and is midway between Lancaster and Harrisburg.

The township encouraged development of the industrial park with a tax break known as a “LERTA,” which stands for Local Economic Revitalization Tax Assistance. Under the program, property taxes on improvements to land are phased in over a 10-year period. That way, if the land was empty before, the property owner starts off paying taxes only on the value of the land, then gradually pays taxes on the value of the buildings and other improvements. Yoder noted that because of this development, the township will get an increase in its property tax base.

Yoder said a major challenge for the township is known as “MS4,” which is the Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System Program from the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection. West Donegal Township recently became urbanized enough that it must comply with the program, which is challenging and expensive to administer.

The program is designed to reduce pollution into tributaries of major rivers to comply with the federal Clean Water Act.

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