1. Home
  2. Docs
  3. Our Future Lancaster
  4. Systems & Focus Area...
  5. System 5 – Building Community & Capacity (BCC)

System 5 – Building Community & Capacity (BCC)


Lancaster is more than the sum of its homes, businesses, and institutions—it is a place where residents can thrive, grow, and belong. It embodies “community” in every sense. All people—regardless of their age, race, ethnicity, or life circumstances—feel welcome. Residents have the opportunity to participate in government and have a voice in decisions about their future. All neighborhoods are safe, healthy, livable places. Services are provided efficiently and with a commitment to excellence. The arts thrive and are an intrinsic part of city life. 


The Comprehensive Plan is about people as well as places. While the four other policy systems are focused on the physical environment, this system focuses on improving resident well-being, health and education, creative potential, and overall life outcomes. The topics addressed include environmental health, community services, governance, and arts and culture. 

Historical development in Lancaster has contributed to underlying issues and inequities in conditions related to these topic areas. The Our Future Lancaster planning process looked at ways that future development could be guided to create more equitable growth for all residents. Many of the policies and actions below express a commitment to assisting vulnerable or marginalized populations who may have had poorer health conditions and less access to community services in the past.

All census tracts in Lancaster City, except for Census Tract 4 divided by the northwest extension and the northeast quadrant, are considered potential Environmental Justice Areas (EJ Area). EJ Areas are defined by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection as places where residents may not have the same degree of protection from environmental and health hazards as the populations at large. Fifteen census tracts in the city are considered to have a high level of social vulnerability, according to the 2020 data from the Center for Disease Control. This metric is an indicator of susceptibility to disaster, and tends to vary with income, race, and disability status (Figure 3-10).

Figure 3-10: Social Vulnerability by Census Tract. A majority of the census tracts in Lancaster have high social vulnerability, meaning residents are more susceptible to external stresses on their health

Policies in this Comprehensive Plan aim to reduce air and water pollution, address noise as an environmental health factor, and reduce exposure to hazardous materials, including hazardous building materials. This includes directing resources to neighborhoods and populations that have historically had poorer health indicators. 

Another area of focus is on social well-being, mental health, and services for persons with special needs. City Health Dashboard, a national indicator of health metrics, indicates slightly higher incidences of physical and mental distress in Lancaster relative to comparably sized U.S. cities. Parts of Lancaster also meet the criteria for “food deserts,” meaning that residents lack convenient access to supermarkets and grocery stores. Approximately 16 percent of Lancaster City residents reported having one or more disabilities, compared to 11 percent in Lancaster County and 14 percent statewide. 

The City provides a strong foundation to address community needs through its core services and public facilities. However, Lancaster cannot meet all of these needs on its own. It relies on partnerships with local institutions and organizations to close gaps in the public service delivery system. Partnerships have been developed in areas such as health care, childcare, education, homelessness prevention, and public safety to round out and extend the reach of the City’s programs. 

Another essential part of creating community is making civic life more inclusive, accessible, and responsive to the needs of all residents. The City has made commitments to racial and social equity across all its own departments. It has maintained a respected identity as a safe city with a police force that actively builds trust with the community they serve. 

The City also has pioneered neighborhood engagement efforts such as the Leadership Academy, Language Access Program, the City Government 101 program, and the on-line Engage Lancaster platform. These efforts are helping to build the next generation of leaders in Lancaster City who will guarantee its continued strength and success. The Comprehensive Plan update itself is emblematic of these efforts. Figure 3-11 is a map of engagement efforts completed over the course of the project, illustrating the range and intensity of geographic coverage.

Figure 3-11: Engagement Efforts During Comprehensive Plan Update. Engagement efforts for the Comprehensive Plan Update were geographically dispersed across the entire city. Each red dot indicates the location of an outreach event.

Holistically improving public health, safety, and civic engagement increases Lancaster’s capacity to realize its social and cultural potential. And that is what’s most notable about this city. Lancaster has received accolades from around the world for its food, art, music and more. These are directly attributable to the collective energy of the city’s residents. Residents’ passion and creativity generates new businesses, events, and works of art that breathe life into the cityscape. The impacts are palpable to residents and visitors alike. In fact, Lancaster City has over 150 works of public art that are documented, although the list is constantly growing (Figure 3-12). One of the secrets to this success lies in the ability to embrace cultural diversity and authentic expression.

Figure 3-12: Public Art Installations in Lancaster City. The colored circles reflect the number of public art installations in different parts of the city.

The Comprehensive Plan engagement process and analysis revealed a set of core issues relating to building community and capacity: 

  • Access to services for all individuals
  • Food deserts and lack of nutrition-oriented programs
  • The need for greater community involvement and initiatives that foster pride in community
  • Improving awareness and visibility of art and cultural resources
  • Increasing opportunities for artists and enhancing cultural spaces
  • Stronger beautification efforts
  • Support for community centers and recreation programs
  • Age-friendly amenities and accommodations

The policies and actions below respond to these issues. They are divided into five major elements:

  1. Environmental Health
  2. Community Well-Being
  3. Quality Public Services
  4. Socialization and Engagement
  5. Arts and Culture

Policies & Actions


Objective: Protect city residents from environmental hazards and improve the land, air, and water essential to a healthy community.

Policy BCC–1.1: Air Quality 

Improve indoor and outdoor air quality and take steps to reduce exposure to air pollutants and improve related health outcomes. Work with surrounding communities, the Metropolitan Planning Organization, and relevant authorities to undertake measures that improve air quality, especially in regard to ozone and particulate matter, and other pollutants that threaten public health.

Policy BCC–1.2: Water Source Protection 

Maintain and improve the health, safety, and supply of potable water for current and projected population and to meet all state and federal standards. Improve surface water quality through the control of point sources such as industry and wastewater treatment facilities and nonpoint sources such as stormwater runoff. 

Action BCC-1.2A Source Water Protection Plan

Develop a DEP-approved Source Water Protection Plan in collaboration with a steering committee of experts and local stakeholders that identifies areas of water sources, sources of contamination, protective management strategies, a plan for emergencies, and new water supply options.

Policy BCC–1.3: Noise Management 

Reduce excessive noise in ways that minimize adverse health impacts. Improve public awareness of the potential impacts of noise, common contributors, and populations that are most vulnerable to noise impacts. Consider acoustics, noise pollution, and noise mitigation in urban design, roadway design, building standards, and the development approval process. Work with stakeholders (such as community groups, transportation agencies, and landscapers) to identify equitable mitigation and enforcement strategies. 

Action BCC–1.3A: Noise Ordinance Update

Review and update the Noise Ordinance. As part of this process, evaluate noise sources, levels, hot spots, issues, and potential measures to reduce noise levels and impacts.

Policy BCC–1.4: Hazardous Materials

Support and implement programs that reduce the risk of exposure to hazardous materials. Provide safe distances between areas where hazardous materials are handled or stored, and sensitive land uses such as schools and residences. Ensure that previously contaminated sites and larger brownfields are remediated to appropriate levels before they are developed.

Policy BCC–1.5: Lead Awareness & Mitigation Outside of Homes 

Build on the City’s lead remediation efforts by increasing awareness of and mitigation efforts to remove lead from sources beyond the home. Common sources include water lines and urban soils that may have been contaminated with lead paint flakes. Eliminate lead water lines rapidly, and promote urban soil testing, raised beds, and other techniques to limit exposure to lead contamination in soil. 

Policy BCC–1.6: Pest and Vector Control

Continue to expand the pest and vector control program to further mitigate common insects and vermin. Incorporate emerging best practices as they become available and partner with property owners to improve effectiveness of the program. 


Objective: Nurture the well-being of city residents through the support of targeted community facilities and social services.

Policy BCC–2.1: Food Systems Planning

Evaluate the City’s food systems to identify access gaps and develop strategies to increase access to healthy food. Assess existing food sources and programs for access to healthy food options. Strategies should consider issues beyond physical proximity and include culturally preferred foods and existing informational resources that connect residents to food assistance. 

Policy BCC–2.2: Childcare and Youth Programming

Support childcare services, youth programming, and other supportive services, especially for low-income families. Align zoning and permitting to simplify the process for establishing childcare facilities and ensure the availability of these services throughout the city. 

Policy BCC–2.3: Populations with Special Needs 

Recognize the special needs of certain groups, including older adults and persons with disabilities, in planning and service delivery. Housing, transportation, recreation, and other programs should work for everyone, regardless of age or ability. 

Action BCC–2.3A: Age-Friendly Action Plan

Work to accomplish the Age-Friendly Action Plan, completed in January 2022, and the four project focus areas: 1) Access to Services: Communications and Outreach; 2) Purpose & Meaning: Promoting Intergenerational Connections; 3) Housing Creation and Preservation; and 4) Vision Zero and Public Space Design

Policy BCC–2.4: Supportive Services

Provide for supportive services and programs in appropriate places throughout the city, as a shared responsibility across quadrants. These include service centers, group homes, residential care facilities, and other facilities that provide a safety net for residents with special needs, including formerly incarcerated residents, veterans, and those in recovery. Evaluate zoning provisions to ensure adequate service levels, fair housing protections, and proper conditions for operation. (See also Policy EEO-1.8)

Policy BCC–2.5: Local Public Health and Access to Health Services

Promote public health and support equitable access to services that improve the health of individuals and families. Improve outcomes through public health analyses and coordination of health initiatives across the City in planning, public works, and neighborhood engagement. 

Action BCC–2.5A: Assess Community Health and Well-being

Complete an assessment of community health and well-being, outcomes, and disparities to better understand community needs and environmental conditions that impact public health. Ensure representation inclusive of all City residents and conduct data analysis according to key demographic attributes such as race, ethnicity, income, geography, and educational level. Update the assessment on an established schedule, build partnerships throughout the study, and work with community partners including health care institutions, schools, and nonprofit organizations to utilize the data to effectively meet the health needs of residents. 

Policy BCC–2.6: Community Mental Health

Leverage partnerships with organizations to heighten education around community mental health and related safety and wellness issues, such as domestic violence, child safety, and behavioral warning signs. 

Action BCC–2.6A: Trauma-Informed Service Provision

Train staff at all levels in trauma-informed practices and relevant applications to municipal work. Continue City efforts to become a trauma-informed community that acknowledges and addresses adverse experiences through the provision of local services. 


Objective: Provide excellent municipal services, including police, fire / emergency response, and recreation to sustain and enhance quality of life in the city.

Policy BCC–3.1: Equitable Access to Services

Deliver public services in a way that is accessible, people-centered, equitable, and responsive to the needs of a diverse, multi-cultural community. Equitable access should be achieved geographically, by making services accessible in all neighborhoods and areas, and systematically, by tailoring services to meet the needs of specific populations as determined through data, customer feedback, and technology. 

Policy BCC–3.2: Planning for Schools

Work collaboratively with the School District of Lancaster on long-range planning issues, including growth projections, enrollment forecasts and capacity, school facility planning, safe routes to school, and land use issues on and around school campuses.

Policy BCC–3.3: Public Library and Learning Resources

Support the Lancaster Public Library in its mission to deliver excellent library facilities and coordinate networks of learning resources available to the public. Enhance the library’s role as a community asset by providing flexible spaces that incorporate multidisciplinary programming and dedicated spaces for meetings and community gatherings. 

Policy BCC–3.4: Recreation Programming

Maintain and strengthen relationships with the Lancaster Rec Commission and other nonprofit agencies to provide a diverse offering of affordable recreational activities and programs that serve residents of all ages and abilities. Ensure that programming is adapted in response to trends and cultural preferences. Programs should promote health, fitness, knowledge, creativity, personal growth, and fun. 

Policy BCC–3.5: Trash and Waste 

Provide efficient, reliable solid waste collection, recycling, and disposal services. Continue the City Bureau of Solid Waste and Recycling’s work and partnerships in reducing and remediating litter and illegal dumping, including Adopt It (the adopt a block program), the Tiny Can initiative, and neighborhood cleanups. 

Policy BCC–3.6: Public Safety Services

Provide excellent, responsive Police and Fire services that meet the changing needs of Lancaster residents and businesses. Keep critical assets such as police and fire stations well-designed, efficient, and effective.

Action BCC–3.6A: Emergency Preparedness

Develop and maintain plans for natural and human-caused emergencies and disasters, including coordination with local, county, and regional response teams. Educate City Police and Fire personnel on emergency plan components and responsibilities, and regularly assess and update equipment inventories. Establish a regular review period to ensure plans remain up to date.  

Policy BCC–3.7: Public Safety Capacity

Regularly evaluate the capacity of public safety services and facilities as the city grows and changes. Coordinate across City departments to review planned land developments and capital improvement projects that impact public safety. Train public safety personnel to address difficult or emerging issues in the community and invest in recruitment and retention as a means of creating a highly capable response team.

Policy BCC–3.8: Police and Community Relations

Foster a holistic community-based model for crime prevention and public safety as a means of improving policing outcomes and building trust with the community. Continue police programs that draw resident interaction, such as the mounted patrol, Police Athletic League, Social Work Team, and bike program.

Policy BCC–3.9: Emergency Management Services (EMS) Evaluations

Coordinate with Lancaster County EMS to conduct periodic assessments of EMS services and facilities to ensure they meet current and expected future needs. This should include evaluating infrastructure limitations (such as water pressure and street width) that hinder levels of service and response times, reviewing critical assets such as fire stations, adapting systems to address deficiencies, and integrating emerging technology.

Policy BCC–3.10: Capital Improvement Planning

Maintain a capital improvement plan that is aligned with Comprehensive Plan objectives, including its focus on equity and growth, and executes relevant policies and actions. Prioritize areas that have been historically underserved, and plan and design for long-term solutions based on land use and transportation forecasts.


Objective: Support community members and organizations in meaningful engagement with neighbors (near and far) and effective participation in local government.

Policy BCC–4.1: Neighborhood Organizations and Leadership 

Partner with existing neighborhood and community groups to build capacity at the neighborhood level, particularly among grassroots leaders and representatives. Foster two-way communication between City staff and neighborhood stakeholders both in-person and virtually. 

Action BCC–4.1A: Neighborhood Leadership Academy

Continue the success of the Neighborhood Leadership Academy program, to educate and empower residents to participate effectively in government. Adapt and develop the program based upon performance assessment and participant feedback. 

Policy BCC–4.2: Boards, Commissions, and Authorities (BCAs)

Support City Boards, Commissions, and Authorities as a primary means of community engagement. Appoint capable residents to the public bodies and secure their success through staff support and ongoing training. Create consistency in appointments, operations, transparency, and accessibility across all BCAs to better serve residents and promote effective operations. Strive for board and commission compositions that reflect the diversity of the city.

Policy BCC–4.3: Inclusive Involvement

Partner with community-based organizations to engage populations whose voices have been under-represented in public processes because of language, mobility, age, citizenship, economic, and other barriers. Use creative and community-driven methods for reaching these groups, such as markets, churches, home visits, school events, cultural activities, and informal social networks.

Action BCC–4.3A: Engaging Under-Represented Groups

Undertake initiatives to better engage those who are under-represented in public processes, such as immigrant communities, people of color, youth, older adults, and younger families. Examples include City programs such as: Language Access, Love Your Block Mini-Grant, and Public Art and Community Engagement (PACE), Welcoming City certification, and more. 


Objective: Foster arts and culture uses that serve our local artists, programs, and institutions—and which celebrate our varied cultures and histories.

Policy BCC–5.1: Arts and Quality of Life 

Recognize the potential for the arts to enrich and inspire residents, contribute to economic vitality, and enhance civic identity and community spirit. Encourage an array of arts and cultural programming that reflects the diversity of the city.

Policy BCC–5.2: Arts and Culture in Public Spaces

Enliven the city by activating the public realm (i.e., streets, parks, and plazas) and non-traditional venues through events, performances, and happenings. Utilize the Lancaster City Office of Promotion (LOOP) and partner organizations to spur fun, honor people and cultures, and showcase community attractions. 

Action BCC–5.2A: Promoting and Facilitating Special Events

Review City regulations, ordinances, and procedures to identify potential barriers for events and programming. Remove these barriers where feasible to allow for expanded artistic and cultural expression and provide opportunities for social activity and joy amongst our residents of all ages and abilities.

Policy BCC–5.3: Space for the Arts

Encourage the development of affordable spaces for artists to live, learn, practice, teach, and present their work. These spaces are important for maintaining the arts as an integral part of the city’s vibrant culture and economy. 

Policy BCC–5.4: Creative Capital

Strengthen connections between artists, institutions, local foundations, nonprofits, and other partnering organizations to support and sustain arts programming. Coordinate resources to address the educational, training, and production needs of the arts community. 

Policy BCC–5.5: Art in Capital Planning and Private Development Projects

Facilitate the integration of public art into the built environment. For public projects, incorporate art elements into select capital improvement projects and streetscape upgrades. For private projects, pursue opportunities to include art that can be viewed or experienced in some form by the public.

Action BCC–5.5A: Public Art Planning 

Develop plans and programs to expand public art in Lancaster City. This should include a process for including art in new private development projects as well as in City parks, plazas, public facilities and streetscape projects. Future activities should include mapping of cultural assets to identify patterns, inform future land use decisions, and identify deficiencies and opportunities that can be addressed through future plans and projects.