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Lititz, celebrated for its beckoning, pedestrian-friendly, tree-lined downtown, isn’t taking success for granted.
Borough leaders think even more can be done to make the small town, population 9,200, an appealing place to live, shop and play. They are weighing measures with the potential to expand the reach of its charming central business district and also to entice developers to build homes for a wide range of incomes.
The plan aligns with the county planning commission’s push to provide for more affordable housing countywide and to save farmland by redeveloping underused spaces in the county’s 18 boroughs and other built places.
A hearing on the amendments to the zoning ordinance is planned for 7 tonight at borough hall, 7 S. Broad St.
But achieving an enhanced vision for Lititz won’t be easy, quick or cheap.
A major legacy issue poses a stumbling block to expanding the borough’s successful downtown. It’s the mostly paved, largely barren industrial area along tiny Lititz Run that, like a wedge, divides the shops and eateries along East Main Street from pleasant residential neighborhoods to the north.
A pair of infrequently used train tracks also parallel the eastward-flowing Lititz Run. In addition, a 16-acre, 100-year floodplain severely limits what can be built near the stream.
But Elijah Yearick, the borough’s planning director, thinks the zoning changes, if approved, would open the door to transforming the problematic Lititz Run area into an asset.
Under the proposal, 33 acres now zoned for industrial uses — from warehouses to car washes — would be rezoned into a new Lititz Run Revitalization District. It would prioritize small-scale commercial and housing development — much of it facing the stream and helping to make it a place to stroll and appreciate — almost like an extension of popular Lititz Springs Park just to the west.
Sections of three streets that cross the stream — Broad, Cedar and Water — would also be open to shops and upper-story housing, a mix that would blend with downtown, Yearick said.
The borough would require new buildings to have facades and design features compatible with the downtown’s traditional look, standing as high as five stories, and in some cases, six.
All of this may take 20 years to accomplish, Yearick said, “but I think we can create something that is enjoyable for the whole community and for people visiting,” including users of the seven-mile Warwick to Ephrata Rail Trail, under construction, that potentially could extend into downtown Lititz.
“It’s like a puzzle. You have to wait for all the pieces to come together,” said Doug Bomberger, a former borough council member and an owner of commercial and industrial properties north of Lititz Run. “We feel (the rezoning) is a positive opportunity to try to do something beyond what we’re doing now. We want to complement and enhance all the great things happening in town.”
The other major zoning change would allow housing developers to build three more units per acre for every affordable unit built. Builders often respond to such an incentive because denser projects are generally more profitable.
A qualifying rental unit would be one affordable to a tenant earning up to $56,880, and a qualifying home for sale would be affordable to a buyer earning up to $81,765.
“We’re hearing again and again that people perceive the borough as pricing them out,” Yearick said. “We don’t want to become a community just for the wealthy.”
James Cowhey, the county’s planning director, called Lititz’s affordable housing bonus “an important step towards supporting growing businesses and the workforce in the region.”