‘Big ideas’ Affordable housing, walkable communities among regional planning topics

By on September 27, 2017

About 60 people took part in the final public meeting for drafting an updated Warwick area comprehensive plan.

Landscape architects Rick Jackson and Chris Brown hosted the meeting, which closed out the fourth time Warwick area officials revisited and tweaked its regional comprehensive plan from 1999.

Starting in March, Elizabeth Township, Lititz Borough, and Warwick Township began the process of updating its regional strategy. The three municipalities, all within the Warwick School District, collected as much public feedback as possible for the “Forge the Future 2022” project.

Under the umbrella of a “Big Ideas” theme, the nearly two-hour meeting held last Thursday at the Warwick Middle School examined the successes attained during the past five years while assessing future challenges.

“We accomplished many of the goals we set out to accomplish,” Jackson said. “Now we are looking to the year 2022 and what challenges lay ahead and how we will address them.”

In breaking down success stories from a community poll, Rock Lititz and downtown Lititz tied at the top by grabbing 22 percent of the vote.

Though not expected to be fully completed until next year, the Warwick to Ephrata Rail Trail came in as the third top success, at 16 percent, followed by “New Housing, Especially Age-Restricted,” which checked in with 14 percent of the vote.

Rounding out the top six issues, at 12 percent each, were the successes in Protection and Preservation, and Community Development & Cooperation.

As for ranking “important issues,” housing came in first as a top concern for 27 percent of responses, followed by “transportation and infrastructure” at 25 percent.

“There are divergent views in this community of what our housing ought to look like,” Jackson said. “We heard (support) for a traditional cookie-cutter kind of approach on one end, we also heard we need more townhouses and apartments.”

Jackson said there is also a perception by many that the Warwick area is overbuilding plus-55 housing communities such as Lititz Reserve.

“The truth of the matter is we have a range of housing, some of which wasn’t necessarily designed as 55-plus housing but has become (plus-55 housing),” he said. “We do have an abundance of retirement housing, but we also have market rate housing across the spectrum as well.”

Public feedback showed a universal concern about housing affordability.

“There is very real concern for the affordability of our housing,” Jackson said. “We have such a terrific community in which to live and raise a family and we’ve become so attractive that affordability is a growing problem.”

The “big ideas” in the housing topic boiled down to four core areas.

The first goal is to promote mixed-residential communities that provide a range of homes while meeting market demands. To do that, officials are determined to explore flexibility in zoning which would “expand housing choices while preserving valued resources.

One important but perhaps overlooked facet in keeping a vibrant housing market is to consider incentives by which to “retain existing and recruit new employees and community volunteers” and understand the role of housing in supporting the community “from employers’ needs to the vision of the Warwick School District.”

“We have many businesses and industries in this community that need employees,” Jackson said. “We need to understand what the impact of housing affordability has on the ability to attract and keep employees in our community.”

Other topics touched on were the need to consider implementing “complete streets” as to foster “walkable communities and provide choices in multi-modal transportation.”

The plan identified areas for improvement such as Brickerville and “growth pressure” spots near Route 501 and Route 322, Route 772, East Main Street and Route 501.

Jackson noted that Red Rose’s public transit system is geared toward the hub of Lancaster.

“From Lititz you have to into Lancaster first to get to Manheim. What about some other means of addressing that through some other creative relationships that could be established,” Jackson said.

Under “Planning and Growth,” the plan examined the need to revitalize existing neighborhoods, and analyze the region’s “future growth potential versus available and planned infrastructure to determine if and when future growth will become unsustainable.”

Look to next week’s Record Express for a continuation of this discussion, Big Ideas: Economic Development and Protection and Preservation.

Patrick Burns is social media editor and staff writer for the Lititz Record Express. He welcomes your questions and comments and can be reached at pburns.eph@lnpnews.com or at 721-4455.

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