Lancaster, New York
A Community Embracing Legacy on the Path to Tomorrow
With dynamic growth in sight, Lancaster keeps its rich history and charm in mind
In Erie County, New York, the Town of Lancaster stands as a vibrant hub of the region. With a history that traces back to its Incorporation in 1833, the community was originally rooted in agriculture, and today is a diverse community with a mix of industries, emphasizing economic resilience. Positioned as an outer ring suburb of Buffalo, Lancaster benefits from proximity to the city while maintaining a distinct identity for the 45,000 people who proudly call it home.
The Town of Lancaster consists of the township, along with the charming Village of Lancaster and a portion of the Village of Depew, Lancaster maintains a commitment to community, recreational amenities, infrastructure development, and strategic business partnerships all of which contribute to its unique character.
Community Culture and Welcoming Spirit
The Town of Lancaster embraces community engagement, with regular events, such as Fourth of July celebrations in the summer and concerts at the Richard E. Pascucci Memorial band shell, contributing to the town’s friendly atmosphere. To highlight this, a new banner program was launched in mid-November, extending a warm welcome to visitors at key entry points and parks. “We are an extremely open and welcoming community,” Town Supervisor Ronald Ruffino, Sr. shares.
He emphasizes the town’s dedication to enhancing public spaces, including plans for a nature trail at the much-loved Westwood Park, which Ruffino describes as, “a beautiful gem of a park.” This new trail will complement the existing amenities, such as soccer and baseball fields, as well as another 4-mile nature pathway in the community.
Economic Powerhouses and Changing Dynamics
Ruffino elaborates on Lancaster’s economic landscape, which features a diverse mix of industries, including manufacturing for aerospace, restaurants, and a growing presence in warehousing. “After we started climbing out of COVID, we noticed people coming in with projects for warehousing,” he describes.
“COVID created a different sense of urgency for products. I don’t think we’ll ever go back to how we were when we had mounds and mounds of products in store, because technology changes so quickly, but I think that there’s a mix coming in the middle, where you’re going to have enough product in case we have another pandemic, and then were you’re not going to get caught with too much inventory that’s going to become a wasteful product.”
Enhanced Community Safety
Safety initiatives, such as the installation of LED lighting in over 2,600 streetlights in the community, not only contribute to a secure environment but also demonstrate a dedication to sustainability and fiscal responsibility.
“One of the statements I use to welcome people is, ‘Come out and visit the town of Lancaster, where you can spend the daytime enjoying our parks, and trails, and travel safely at night with our LED lighting to one of your favorite restaurants’,” quips Ruffino.
This lighting project, which he started when he was a council member, had the multi-pronged goal of improving lighting quality and reducing outages, energy consumption, and operating costs for taxpayers. “The payback was expected to be about 12 years, and the anticipated savings of approximately $3 million over the next 25 years,” he relays. “I did a comparison of a full year without LED lighting versus a full year with LED lighting, and the energy savings was $197,184. So, I think the payback is going to be much less than 12 years.”
Additionally, the community was the first municipality in North America to convert all of their signals in an innovative approach to address traffic signal outages. Ruffino details the collaboration with Viridi Parente Inc., a manufacturer of FAVEO Systems. These systems seamlessly activate in milliseconds to maintain traffic control in case of power outages, ensuring a swift and imperceptible transition. With eight traffic control signals in the town, this cutting-edge solution showcases the community’s commitment to the safety of its residents.
“This takes away a pedestrian accident or a car accident due to a traffic signal failure,” he notes. “The other thing is, normally when we have an outage in one of these areas, it’s our volunteer firemen that go in the middle of the road, and it is normally during inclement weather. So, these guys are standing in the middle of the road, they’re at risk. No longer will they have to be at risk, and they can be deployed somewhere else in need.”
Forward Thinking Infrastructure Development
Lancaster’s commitment to infrastructure development is evident in its proactive approach to waterline projects. “That’s one of the essentials that you have to deliver to your residents, for safety, to keep them happy, and so on,” Ruffino portrays. “In 2022, we updated almost seven miles of water lines, costing us about $5.8 million. And this year, 2023, over three miles, for $4.2 million. The planning for 2024 is about two miles, and a cost of $3.3 million.”
The town also prioritizes long-term infrastructure sustainability and has a 10-year plan with the highway department for road repaving and restructuring projects. Ruffino recounts a decision to prioritize quality over quick fixes during a road project. Advised by the highway superintendent, they opted for comprehensive road restructuring instead of patching, which was destined to fail in a short time.
“Sure, it’s going to cost you a little bit more at that point, but it’s going to save you down the road,” He acknowledges. “There’s no sense in trying to keep up with that trend. You’re going to be constantly carrying the heavy equipment out there, fixing that road, versus stripping it down and redoing everything from the ground up.”
Economic Development and Partnerships
The economic vitality of Lancaster benefits from proactive economic development initiatives, including the introduction of Brazen Brewery, a brewer-owned and operated establishment in the heart of the community, and Premier Dog Sports and Event Center, a unique 26,000-square-foot facility attracting visitors from across the continent.
“We’re the only ones in New York State to have the Premier Dog Sports and Event Center,” Ruffino explains. “Nobody wanted them for some reason. I met with the proposed owner at the time. She explained the plan, and it touched my heart a little bit because I knew what she was trying to build was a training facility and a place to hold competitions.”
Welcoming the initiative with open arms, the town’s support led to the successful establishment of the facility, attracting participants from across the United States and Canada. Ruffino emphasizes the substantial tourism boost, with visitors staying for extended periods, patronizing local businesses, dining in restaurants, and contributing to the economic vitality of Lancaster. “I’m so proud of that company, they’re doing so well. And it’s just having an open mind to accept something like that and looking at the future.”
Ruffino also discussed the success in keeping a notable warehouse in the community. Facing imminent closure after a buyout, a plan was devised to extend an expiring tax incentive program for another five years. “We didn’t get the full tax that we were going to get, but we didn’t lose any money,” he reports.
“I looked at it as risking losing everything that we have and risking all those jobs, versus keeping things level for another five years. I’m proud of being able to be part of that, saving 700 jobs and not having to see families suffer through another loss through these dire times.”
As for other valuable collaborations and partnerships, the Town of Lancaster relies on a strong relationship with the Lancaster Depew Elma Chamber of Commerce, which acts as a vital support and promoter for local businesses. Ruffino also names the Villages of Depew and Lancaster as important partners in the community.
Partnering with Wm. Schutt and Associates is beneficial as Ruffino states, “We don’t have our own engineer; we outsource to them. They are a local company, they’re right around the corner from town hall. They don’t make all the decisions, but they present the decisions to the town board and they are very well thought out,” he says.
A Vision for the Future
As Ruffino contemplates the future of the Town of Lancaster, he reflects, “You have to keep up with the times. I know that commercial development, and bringing in business is the key to not a great increase in taxes. In my proposed budget this year, I’m not raising taxes, not that costs didn’t go up, but our general fund balance grew substantially in the last few years. My thought was the taxpayers are getting hit everywhere else and I was able to hold the line on taxes and give them a break.”
In conclusion, he offers a nod to the town’s character, underscoring Lancaster’s friendly and welcoming atmosphere, which is captured in the community tagline, “Embracing Legacy on the Path to Tomorrow.” This sentiment reflects Lancaster’s ongoing commitment to preserving its heritage while embracing a progressive vision for tomorrow.
AT A GLANCE
Lancaster, New York
What: A community of 45,000 looking toward a promising future
Where: Erie County, New York