At a Thursday, March 31 special public meeting, the Lancaster Township board of supervisors voted unanimously to recommend that the administration formally present the School District of Lancaster board with their latest emergency services location proposal. The newly proposed location also satisfied the majority of previous complaints from local residents regarding potential loss of park space and impact on nearby residential streets.
On Thursday evening, after a months-long and contentious public discussion, board chair Tom Schaller asserted that “my gut feeling is that we’ve got to give [township manager] Bill [Laudien] some direction here.” Schaller, along with the rest of the three-member board, ultimately directed in favor of the latest plan.
Board member Ben Bamford ruled out the second-newest proposal—to develop a vacant lot at West Street and Elm Avenue—noting that the property could be commercially developed in near future. Bamford also questioned the “Elm” proposal due to its potential redirecting of traffic on Atkins and Spencer Ave.
Kathy Wasong, another board member, favored the latest proposal as the least likely to send fire engine traffic through residential streets.
Rather than sitting behind Planet Fitness with private access drives to Atkins Ave and Millersville Pike, the new location would front on Millersville Pike, sitting alongside the Planet Fitness parking lot. A one-way private drive leading to the fire house from Atkins Avenue would run along the Manor House Apartment’s property line and behind Planet Fitness. It would begin at a point that would minimize travel along the residential Atkins Ave. All emergency vehicles would exit at Millersville Pike.
Township residents, who turned out in an audience of more than 80, were largely in favor of the newest plan. Several expressed that they had been strongly opposed to the first proposal, but have appreciated the changes recently made.
Robert Field spoke as part-owner and representative of Manor House Apartments and called the new proposal a “win-win situation,” noting the diversion of emergency facility traffic from single-family residential parts of Atkins Ave and the preservation of park space. Field asserted that, while the Elm Avenue location could avoid any negative affect on Manor House, he was convinced that the new location near 999 would maximize the potential of such a center.
Some remained strongly opposed to any plan that would develop any parcel of the park. Kim Lutz, an active member of the Friends of Lancaster Township Park group, argued that the township should strive to preserve as much of that open space as possible, since the district could further develop nearby plots in the years to come. Another woman called it “sacrilegious” to build on even a smaller piece of the park.
Having obtained the supervisors’ approval, the township administration can now formally request a change in its lease agreement with the district. After that, the plan will be subject to review from PenDOT.