Thursday, May 05, 2005

07: “Straban Township, From First to Worst in a flash!”

Straban Township sits on the northeast shoulder of the borough of Gettysburg, and extends out from there for many miles to the north, northeast, east and southeast. It is currently about 70% agricultural, being responsible for much of the cattle, corn, wheat, and soybeans raised in Adams County. The staple of Adams County farm production is, of course, its fruit production. According to the official Adams County website, Adams County is first in the state in production of Apples and Peaches.

Further, the website states the county ranks 4th in wheat, and 5th in soybeans. It is 13th in dairy milking production and 17th in production of broiler chickens. Much of this production (except the fruit) comes from Straban township.

So why are the supervisors, “The Strabaddies”, trying to pave it over? “Hyperbole!” you say? Lay thy hands upon a copy of the Hanover Sunday Sun for May 1, 2005, and turn to the “Local News” section on page A-3. There, in glorious black and white you can see the headline: “Straban Develops Land-Use Proposal”. They even put a little “At-A-Glance” box next to the article, in which it states:

  1. “Open Space: 10,879.2 acres would fall into this designation, which includes both open space and agriculture. The proposal is a 78.3 percent decrease in open space and agricultural land…
  2. Residential: Straban would earmark 6,946 acres for residential growth, an increase of 239.8 percent from their last land use plan.
  3. Mixed Use: 1,542 acres of land which could be for either residential or commercial development.
  4. Economic: 2,275 acres are given this broad definition for areas including utilities, industry, and commercial growth.”

Most of the 10,763 acres devoted to Residential, Mixed and Economic development are coming out of the reduction of nearly 8,000 acres of current Open and Agricultural land. To see this graphically, turn to page A-8 and look at the map in which the proposed land use is coded by color. It should make your blood run cold.

There is such a thing as out-of control, or runaway development, but this is absurdly beyond that. This is an all-out assault on the richly productive farms in Adams County, specifically in one largely agricultural township. If it were not so moronically sick, it would be laughable. And, it was not without its warning signs.

Straban Township farmers got a taste of how their supervisors felt about them several years ago, when Straban invited Reliant Energy, and the new Adams County Prison facility to be built side-by-side, next to some very rich farms. During the height of a severe drought, these bright boys ordered test wells dug, and water pumped out of the ground to be simply dumped onto the surface, and nearby wells started drying up in twos and threes. At a subsequent township supervisor’s meeting the County Solicitor (read: lawyer), speaking with the disclaimer that he was neither a hydrologist nor a geologist, stood in front of the room and stated the test wells were not dug in the same water table as the farms’ wells. Oddly enough, the farther you went from the test wells, the fewer the farm wells that went dry. Even more odd, once the test wells were finished, some of the farm’s wells recovered. But the farmer’s anger at the meeting received only lip service, some free pity, and a firm stand behind “What he said!”.

“The Strabaddies” have learned their lessons the hard way, however, having been dealt defeat on a WalMart Distribution Center near the Hunterstown exit of US 15, and defeat of a WalMart Superstore on the 42 acre lot where the new Casino is planned. Under cover of the gathering storm of protest over the planned Casino, "The Strabaddies" sneaked their new land use plan past the public on a Sunday, one day before they were to vote on it at a meeting, where it was, of course, approved.

Perhaps national politics has created a phenomenon on the local level, and perhaps voting has become more complicated than it once was. In Adams County, its doubtful that more than a few split a ticket. But to overcome the vacuous greed, and propensity for the destruction of the Adams County way of life displayed by "The Strabaddies", among others, they need to be voted out of office, or, even better, subjected to immediate recalls. All of them, including the County Commissioners are complicit in this ravaging by the local developers. Adams is a solidly red county that needs to turn, not blue, but green.

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