Lancaster pushes school district for water tower that city says is holding up new school replacement

LANCASTER TWP., Pa. - The city of Lancaster's department of public works Thursday made its push to the School District of Lancaster and community members to approve construction of a water tower on school district property.

It is in the school district's best interest to approve the 135-foot tall, 3 million gallon water tower, the public works department argued, since holding up the water tower means the city and other neighboring communities could not approve future development without increased water capacity, including the district's plans to replace Buchanan Elementary School on land next to Lancaster Community Park.

It is on that land where the city would like to build the water tower.

"As of now, we've had to put the project at a stop, because we haven't been able to get the approvals from the city on the new Buchanan Elementary School, based on what our understanding is the need for this water tower," said Matthew Przywara of the School District of Lancaster.

Both the current and future Buchanan school sites are in Lancaster Township, whose planning commission had approved the city public works department's request to build a water tower in 2016.

The city of Lancaster operates water services for the city and neighboring communities, including Lancaster Township.

"The school district informed us about the elementary school project, which conflicted with the site of the tank location, so we had to start over again, start from square one," said Charlotte Katzenmoyer, the city's director of public works.

The water tower has met strong resistance from community members who are part of Friends of Lancaster Community Park.

They say they approve of replacing Buchanan Elementary School on the empty lot next to the park, but are worried about what a water tower in their community would look like.

They are concerned that it could "be around the play area where the children will be playing, and kind of an eyesore," said Helen Pinder, who lives next to the park.

"It's just going to take up huge amounts of space, so whatever the school district wants to do with it later on won't be available to them because it'll be taken with the water tower," said Ron Jaynes, who also lives next to the park.

City leaders said the need for the tower trumps the aesthetic concerns.

"Just look at the horizon driving around anywhere in the entire country and you see water towers dotting the sky all around the country," said Katzenmoyer. "It's a necessary part of infrastructure."

The school board could vote on approving the water tower as soon as later this month.