A Transect for Lancaster County

In order to further implement Balance, the Growth Management Element of the Lancaster County Comprehensive Plan, the Lancaster County Planning Commission initiated a visualization project to develop images and sketches of the type of development called for in the plan. The transect is the foundation of the visualization project.

A transect is a way of categorizing, understanding, and influencing the development and preservation patterns of a region. It is a “slice” through the landscape from the most rural areas to the most intensely urban areas. The transect is a tool for identifying the major components of the natural and human environment in order to plan for the most appropriate land use, building intensity, and development pattern. Each transect category differs from the others in terms of its predominant pattern, form, character, uses, and intensity. Development planned for each transect category should have the appropriate characteristics for its specific that category.

The countywide transect is comprised of the following zones, each of which was loosely based on a place in Lancaster County:

  • T1 Natural Areas – Susquehanna River Hills
  • T2 Agriculture – East Earl Township farmland
  • T3 Rural Centers – Village of Maytown
  • T4 Suburban – Suburban West Hempfield Township
  • T5 Urban – Grandview Heights
  • T6 Urban Center – Lititz Borough
  • T7 Urban Core – Lancaster City Central Business District
This transect is a representation of the land use patterns that should be found in each T zone in the future. While the drawings are based on existing places, they are not actual representations of these places. They have been modified to show the land use patterns, transportation network, densities and intensities of development, and building form that are anticipated for each T zone.

In Lancaster County, the transect is linked to the county’s Growth Management Element, Balance, and the functional elements of the county’s comprehensive plan, particularly Greenscapes, the Green Infrastructure Element. The 2006 Growth Management Framework Map in Balance identifies in similar fashion to the transect the most rural to the most urban areas of the county. It includes natural areas, agricultural areas, rural centers, general and concentrated development areas, and general and core reinvestment areas. Greenscapes identifies three categories – Preservation Areas, Conservation Areas, and Restoration Areas.

The purpose of transect planning is to guide land development patterns in a manner that reinforces the progression of the intensity of urban characteristics from the T1 Rural Zone to the T6 Urban Core. The physical characteristics that distinguish one T zone from another are defined by the transect. The transect also provides a regional framework for planning that covers the full range of rural and urban environments. Planners and designers use the transect as a framework to facilitate community planning, develop design guidelines, and create land use regulations. The transect can be used as the basis for developing a form-based code – a code that regulates the form of development rather than the uses permitted as in traditional Euclidian zoning.

The transect is an effective educational tool that illustrates mixed use and more intense urban development styles. The T zones can be used to develop generalized future land use designations in local comprehensive plans. The transect defines development in each transect zone. From rural areas to suburban to urban centers, development should be distinct in each transect category. Transect subcategories should also provide additional options for the development of specific future land use categories. For example in the countywide transect, T2 Natural Areas is divided into two subcategories – T1-1 Preservation and T1-2 Conservation and T4 Suburban is divided into T4-1 New Suburban Development and T4-2 Suburban Retrofit.


Transect Zone (T Zone) Definitions

T1 – Natural Areas

  • Natural Areas – Land with high scenic, recreational, and natural resource value and land unsuitable for development due to environmental constraints such as steep slopes, wetlands, floodplains, etc. Natural Areas should be permanently protected and incorporated into an open space/greenway network that extends inside and outside of Urban Growth Areas.
T2 – Agriculture

  • Agricultural Areas – Land containing the greatest intensity of agricultural resources and uses in Lancaster County, as well as agricultural land mixed with environmentally sensitive resources. Agricultural land should be managed to preserve productive farmland, promote a healthy agricultural industry, and maintain scenic and historic rural landscapes, and protect natural resources.
T3 – Rural Centers

  • Rural Centers – A concept for managing growth in rural Lancaster County introduced in the 2005 Growth Management Element Update. Rural Centers are areas of existing development where new development (not directly related to the rural economy and rural way of life) should be directed. Four types of Rural Center are proposed: Village Growth Areas (as presently designated through municipal and multi-municipal planning processes) and three new types to be identified on a case-by-case basis by municipal officials – Crossroads Communities, Rural Business Areas, and Rural Neighborhoods. Rural Centers are not intended to stimulate growth in rural areas, but rather to “capture” development that would otherwise occur as “rural sprawl.”
  • Village Growth Areas – Areas designated as appropriate for future development which include a traditional village core, adjacent developed areas, and additional land to absorb a portion of future land use needs over a 25-year period while maintaining village scale, character, and a defined edge.
Development in Village Growth Areas should be provided with public sewer and/or public water service where appropriate and feasible. The target net density for residential development in Village Growth Areas is 2.5 units/ acre, on average. Nonresidential development should occur at intensities which are compatible with the character of the village. Both residential and non-residential development should be designed to be compatible with and complement the traditional, pedestrian-friendly character of the village through features such as grid street patterns, sidewalks, buildings pulled to the street with parking behind, and compatible architectural scale and mass.

The Growth Management Framework Map illustrates Village Growth Areas that are presently designated by Lancaster County municipalities. It also indicates the locations of villages identified in the 1997 Growth Management Element Update that have not been designated as Village Growth Areas. These villages should be considered for Village Growth Area designation in municipal and multi-municipal planning processes.

  • Crossroads Communities – A compact group of 20 to 50 dwellings with a distinct identity in a rural area, typically at a crossroads. A Crossroads Community often has a central gathering place, and may have a few supporting commercial or public uses. Where appropriate, these communities may be the focus for a limited amount of development as an alternative to rural sprawl. Only development that is compatible with the traditional character and small scale of these communities, and which is feasible to support with rural infrastructure, should be permitted in these centers. The locations of Crossroads Communities identified in the 1997 Growth Management Element Update are shown on the Growth Management Framework Map.
  • Rural Neighborhoods – Areas of existing residential development or subdivisions with undeveloped lots or adjacent land that would be appropriate to accommodate a portion of a municipality’s future land use needs. The purpose of Rural Neighborhoods is to focus future residential development in areas where it already exists, on land that is currently subdivided, or on land adjacent to or between existing subdivisions. Rural Neighborhoods should be limited in scope and developed in a compact pattern with a defined edge.
Rural Neighborhoods are not intended to attract growth, but to accommodate growth in a compact area, rather than to let it occur as rural sprawl. Rural Neighborhoods will be designated and land use targets set on a case-by-case basis through municipal and multi-municipal planning.

  • Rural Business Areas – Existing developed areas with undeveloped lots or the potential to expand or add uses where additional development could be accommodated rather than sprawled throughout the rural areas. A Rural Business Area would be established through infill and, as appropriate, limited expansion of the existing use(s). Examples include clusters of industrial, commercial, employment, or service uses; concentrations of recreational or tourist uses; and mixes of these uses.
T4 – Suburban

  • General Building Areas – Presently undeveloped land within an Urban Growth Area that has less available infrastructure (water, sewer, transportation access) than Concentrated Building Areas and thus may not be appropriate for the highest intensity uses.
  • General Reinvestment Areas – Developed Areas within Urban Growth Areas that are located outside Core Reinvestment Areas. General Reinvestment Areas can also participate in the benefits of the Reinvestment Strategy. However, many of the more recent developments fall into this land category. Therefore, the capacity for reinvestment in terms of abandoned and underutilized properties or properties available for conversion is not as high as in Core Reinvestment Areas.
Examples: Generally post-World War II residential development. Subdivisions with larger lots > ¼ acre.

T5 – Urban

  • General Reinvestment Areas –Developed Areas within Urban Growth Areas that are located outside Core Reinvestment Areas. General Reinvestment Areas can also participate in the benefits of the Reinvestment Strategy. However, many of the more recent developments fall into this land category. Therefore, the capacity for reinvestment in terms of abandoned and underutilized properties or properties available for conversion is not as high as in the Core Reinvestment Areas.
  • Concentrated Building Areas – Presently undeveloped land within an Urban Growth Area that has the physical characteristics and available infrastructure to accommodate more intense development. Concentrated Building Areas are buildable lands that can accommodate more intense development patterns due to the availability of utilities located within water and sewer service areas, and ready vehicular access to the upper level transportation network and potential public transit service. Concentrated Building Areas can accommodate high-density residential zoning by right, mixed-use centers or a combination of both.
Examples: First-ring suburbs as well as newer suburban development

T6 – Urban Center

  • Core Reinvestment Areas – Within Urban Centers, these are the focus of a Reinvestment Strategy directed toward sustaining the quality of life in older communities by maintaining sound neighborhoods, viable local retail centers, expanded employment opportunities, sound institutions, and public places, all supported by a growing tax base.
Examples: Boroughs and Lancaster City (outside Central Business District)

T7 – Urban Core

  • Core Reinvestment Areas – Within the Urban Core, these areas are the focus of a Reinvestment Strategy directed toward sustaining the quality of life in older communities by maintaining sound neighborhoods, viable local retail centers, expanded employment opportunities, sound institutions, and public places, all supported by a growing tax base.
Examples: Lancaster City Central Business District