Wednesday, June 22, 2005

21: “You’ve got to get them all”

Living in an old rural house has its advantages. It fits in perfectly with its rustic surroundings, deer, fox, and other wildlife in the back yard, and the charm of sagging, uneven floors. Occasionally, however, wildlife tends to come too close. A skunk in the yard, or (God forbid!) a mouse in the house.

While sitting here the past few nights writing the blog, a very loud gnawing sound began emanating from my bookcase. I suspected a mouse, but was surprised to hear it as they should have moved outside by this time of year. So traps were set last evening, and the creature, reaching for its peanut-buttery treat, got its last earthly reward instead -- a trip to whatever afterlife mice believe in.

But the hole from which he entered the room is still there, hidden away where I can’t get to it under a radiator, and the damage to the bookcase remains. This got me to thinking about the current plight of our lifestyle here in Adams County.

The developers come out of nowhere. They suddenly appear at a press conference, or, more often than not, they simply appear at some meadow, or forest area, at the head of a line of bull dozers, where they begin gnawing away at the landscape. The hole they enter through is called the Adams County Economic Development Corporation.

Here’s how it works: a group of your neighbors (yes, that’s correct, the ACEDC is made up of folks who live among you) are collected together to form a non-profit organization called the Adams County Economic Development Corporation. They exist because forty or fifty years ago it was thought that a region should have some control over its own economic destiny, and should have a local agent to act in a depressed area, and during depressed economic times, to spur economic growth in an area through development and re-development. Nice idea, too few controls. Adams County’s EDC is a perfect example of all that can go wrong with the EDC concept.

First, these are private, non-profit organizations made up of business and government leaders from Adams County. Don’t ask who sits on this Star Chamber, they don’t make that information public. Oh, they don’t hide it, you can dig it out, but they do not publicize who they are, or what they do very often around here. That’s because they know they will incur the wrath of their neighbors if what they do ever got fully exposed. Not to worry, they are NOT bound by the Sunshine Law. Nor are they subject to government oversight, even though they receive YOUR tax dollars to fund their operations. For example, the $175,000 for the engineering study being done at the site of the proposed “Equestrian Center” comes almost directly out of your pocket in the form of state and Federal taxes. And the ACEDC does not have to answer to you.

This group of your neighbors operates in secrecy, such as they did a few years back in their attempt to bring a WalMart distribution center to the Hunterstown Exit of US 15, the very same place they want to put the “Equestrian Center”. They did it again a short while later when they tried to get WalMart into the site where the casino is planned, and wound up losing that deal, too. Both cases were lost because the word got out and the public went to war in the press.

So the ACEDC learned to keep silent, and the result is the mouse hole (or is it a rat hole) from which developers and investor groups (same thing) keep emerging with new projects, almost exclusively in Straban Township!

Second, there is no need for economic development in Adams County. Our economy is fine. Our unemployment is among the lowest in the nation at 2-3%. Yet the ACEDC keep cranking out deals at a feverish pace (at about the same rate that a mouse couple multiplies!). Adams County doesn’t need that kind of effort. What is driving it is pure greed. Adams County has become the pantry for all those developer mice to come in and get fat on, then move on to somewhere else. They don’t give a hoot what their project does to your county.

If you do not understand by now that a connection exists between the ACEDC, "The Strabaddies", and "The Addams Family" (the Adams County Commissioners), and that connection exists to turn Straban Township (and eventually Adams County) into a clone of what US 30 in York looks like, and US 15 in Frederick, Maryland looks like, then you have not been paying attention all these years.

The Casino is the first mouse though the hole. The “Equestrian Center” is the second. Look how fast the one followed the other. There is a reason for that. No one paid attention when "The Strabaddies" completely altered their zoning plan to open up 80% of the farmland and open space in the township to commercial, industrial, and residential development, just 7 days after the casino project was announced. All eyes were focused on the casino. Now, while the casino is still getting all the attention, they announce the “Equestrian Center”, and everyone thinks, “Who cares, that’s up the road!”.

I care. You SHOULD care. The “Equestrian Center” is just the second mouse. Wait until you see the rest of the pack. It won’t be long. Some of them will be along shortly, emerging into your neighborhood from the hole that your neighbors made. You've got to get all the mice, and you absolutely must locate and CLOSE the hole!

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