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Not the right time for cluster ordinance

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Lancaster County’s Planning Department presented an informative and glowing analysis on the proposed cluster ordinance to Lancaster County Council and the Planning Commission earlier this month.

Cluster zoning is being sold to the residents of Lancaster County as a tool to help save our countryside green space, preserve wildlife habitats, offer space for communal recreation and limit clear-cutting.

Although these are all excellent objectives, they are being used to camouflage problems associated with any type of dense development, such as cluster or R-15, will bring to the already stressed infrastructure of our county.

With the current rate of growth in the Panhandle area, any zoning concept that intensifies density will be catastrophic for the existing residents already suffering from overcrowding, as well as to all of the taxpayers of the county who will have to fund the ever-increasing infrastructure needs of the Panhandle area.

In July, County Council employed the Catawba Regional Council of Governments to establish a master plan for the entire county to provide proper direction and guidance for future growth.

Passing the cluster ordinance at this point in time will be creating another spot-zoning type community in an already overcrowded and disorganized area.

County Council would be wise to wait for Catawba’s professional study and then revisit the cluster ordinance. Since this study has been funded with taxpayers’ dollars, council needs to rethink its voting decision and speak to the best interests of the residents of our county, and not to the needs of incoming developers.

Another contributing factor for the cluster ordinance push is that it is site-specific, with the TreeTops subdivision approval being contingent on a positive vote. Mattamy Homes’ $350 million project cannot proceed without this ordinance passing.

It is an interesting, if not ethically confusing fact, that Lancaster County is employing a cluster-zoning consultant who is at the same time a consultant for Mattamy Homes.

There are seemingly too many conflicts of interest here for this concept to be an honest, objective and necessary ordinance for the county.

One alternative option for this characteristically urban planning tool is to allow the incorporated communities within the county to use cluster zoning if they feel they need it, and not burden the rest of this essentially rural county with an unnecessary ordinance. This approach would be a much more community-friendly decision.

As clearly stated above, the proposed cluster ordinance is not a developmental tool that Lancaster County needs at this time.

Rosa Sansbury is a Van Wyck resident.