The Lancaster County Commissioners announced this week that they are opening a period of public discussion as to what to do with approximately nine acres of land the county owns just south of the 600 block of Juniata Street in Lancaster between Broad St. and Ann St. behind the Washington Elementary School and Hand Middle School. It is colloquially known as "Hand's Woods."
Andy Duncan, executive director of the Hand's Woods Foundation, argued that the land should remain available for the outdoor environmental and educational activities that currently take place there.
Children from the surrounding schools participate in educational activities in the wooded area.
But the local chapter of Habitat for Humanity wants to build affordable housing units on the property.
"Right now there are thousands of families that are in dire need of affordable housing," said Stacie Reidenbaugh, Executive Director of the Lancaster Area Habitat for Humanity.
She wants to develop "up to 25 units of housing" on the property.
Ken Kreider of Manheim Township, who is involved with Habitat for Humanity, suggested that both organizations may be able to get their way with housing units constructed on a portion while also preserving the most wooded area for nature activities.
The Commissioners are allowing public input about the property until the end of the year. They are also going to send the issue to the County Planning Commission for their review.
"I'm not a big fan of government just sitting on property," said Commissioner Scott Martin.
The County has owned the parcel of land since 1884, according to Chief Clerk of the Board of Commissioners, Andrea McCue. "It is my understanding that at one time the County owned all of the land in that area," she wrote.