APRIL 15 WAS A DAY WORTH commemorating for Lancaster, Pa.-based Charter Homes. In celebratory style, the community of Veranda held its official “Grand Opening,” marking years of creative strategizing that had finally come full circle. Through a variety of methods, Charter promoted the event and welcomed a varied mix of buyers into the community's 63-acre tract located just off of the heavily traveled Harrisburg Pike.

Some came to satisfy their curiosity about this new kind of neighborhood, replete with townhomes, single-family homes, and carriage homes priced from the $200,000s and $300,000s. A few even came eager to buy. But regardless of any initial sales figures, for Rob Bowman, president of Charter Homes, the community of Veranda has already proved to be a success.

Being recognized for his commitment to smart growth neighborhood design is nothing new to Bowman. After all, he's gotten local, state, and national nods for his leadership in the area. And with that type of track record, it's really no surprise that Veranda is already winning awards as well. But, while being honored for design is certainly flattering, it's winning recognition for Charter's collaborative efforts that truly justifies the strategies that Bowman has created for the company.

SUCCESS STORY: Rob Bowman, president of Charter Homes, was recognized for his commitment to smart growth. On Nov. 15, 2004, Charter Homes and East Hempfield Township were officially honored with an achievement award through the Envision Lancaster County Leadership Awards Program. The county commissioners and county planning commission recognized the collaborative efforts between Charter Homes and East Hempfield Township that resulted in the creation of two new ordinances.

It was only after the Neighborhood Design Option (NDO) ordinance and the Neighborhood Design Standards (NDS) ordinance were championed by the unlikely team that Veranda could become a reality. And now that these ordinances have been put into place, the opportunity exists for additional similar neighborhoods to be designed and built in the county as well.

Time For A Change When the easily accessible, privately owned chunk of farmland became available several years ago, a handful of potential buyers expressed their interest in developing. But, as it was one of the last available parcels in an area surrounded by prior development, Bowman immediately recognized the responsibility that this land carried: “How that land was used was going to be the keystone,” he recalls. “If done right, it would allow the township to preserve the old character of its agricultural holdings and respect the heritage of the area.”

With its R-2 zoning status, the parcel could have easily been developed into a typical neighborhood where the land would be stripped, and many of the homes would present rear yards and typical architecture to commuters along the Harrisburg Pike. In turn, the pleasant view of open fields would have been tainted. Bowman's vision was to keep the rural feel by using open spaces, incorporating ponds, and enhancing the area with farm meadows. To accomplish this, he saw a mix of home styles and sizes positioned among more narrow roads. And by creating a sense of community with higher densities and mixed product, the development would appeal to first-time buyers, move-ups, and empty-nesters alike. But Charter couldn't make it happen alone.

PERFECT PLAN: Veranda, a community replete with townhomes, single-family homes, and carriage homes, was the result of an award-winning collaboration. Like the other bidders interested in the land, Bowman went before the township with a proposal. But his was different. “I said, you really might want to consider something outside of your ordinances,” he recalls. “I took them a new idea.”

New And Improved For Lancaster County representatives, the concepts Charter Homes presented hit their sweet spot, falling directly in line with their emerging beliefs about “smart” growth. So, despite the challenges the project needed to overcome, the East Hempfield Township Board of Supervisors and their staff pledged their commitment by leading the charge in the creation of new ordinances that would ultimately guide Veranda's development.

“Rob [Bowman] comes to the table with fantastic ideas and he really looks at ways he can balance his business objectives with the specific needs of the township,” says George Marcinko, manager of East Hempfield Township. Marcinko also served as Charter's point person throughout the initiative.