Lancaster officials have taken steps to ensure that the business district does not get eaten away by new development that isn't in keeping with the village's historic charm.
Monday, the Village Board approved new central business district design standards that regulate everything from building height and landscaping to window size and roof lines. Fencing, signage, awnings and lighting would also have to adhere to standards.
"It really defines what's acceptable in terms of construction within the business district," said Mayor William G. Cansdale Jr.
Existing businesses and residential properties will not be penalized if they fail to conform to the new standards, but any new property development or renovation in the central business district would be required to meet the design standards.
"We have to start somewhere," said Community Development Director Jeffrey Stribing. "Our focus for adopting this is to make sure we're eligible for future funding opportunities."
It took the village about two years to come up with proposed design requirements, which were an outgrowth of the Lancaster master plan adopted in 1999, Stribing said.
Not everyone is thrilled with the new design standards. Some consider them to be costly, restrictive and impractical. But others are very supportive.
"I think if it's implemented correctly, it could be a very good thing," said Kory Schuler, owner of Sweet Briar Antiques on Central Avenue. "To have a set of rules that would be implemented evenly throughout the business district would be very helpful."
Village officials say they have lost out on thousands of dollars in grant money because of their failure to adopt standards sooner.
The new standards will enable businesses and some homeowners to qualify for future grant money and tax credits earmarked for building improvements, Stribing said. It will also give guidance to area preservationists and criteria for code enforcement officials.
The new standards will go into effect in 30 days.
In other news, Public Works Superintendent William Natalzia informed the board that an arborist from Davey Resources has been contracted by the county to survey all trees the village has targeted for removal because of damage from the October storm.