Friday, July 08, 2005

28: “Assessing the Situation and Defining Greed”

It is time to pause and assess the situation here in the Gettysburg area. We need to take a look at the status of the dual fight to halt the casino, and roll back development. Right now, there seems to be a pause in the action while the area goes through the very heart of its tourist season and the fruit industry enters its busy time.

We need to ask ourselves some serious questions at this point:

First, and foremost, the farmers of Straban Township need to ask themselves if they are comfortable allowing the township to gobble up their farms for development. Won’t happen, you say. Who have you been listening to, "The Strabaddies"? They have had designs on the farms of the township for years. Take a look at what they did to the farmers’ wells in the middle of the last drought, and then lied at the Supervisors’ meeting that the Electric Plant and County Prison test wells were on a different water table than the farm wells that were drying up all around them. Now they are armed with a Supreme Court decision that allows them to take your farm because a developer wants to put 400 houses and Sheetz on your acreage. Don’t think "The Strabaddies" will do it? Remember what happened to the poor homeowner at the intersection of Granite Station Road and U.S. 30? Rather than do it themselves, they got their buddies "The Addams Family", as we refer to the Adams County Commissioners to, declare eminent domain and take his land.

Second question - has anyone searched the Bermuda Triangle for "The Addams Family"? Seriously, where are the Adams County Commissioners?

Third question – does anyone wonder why the supervisors in Liberty and Freedom townships fight so hard to deny and delay development, yet "The Strabaddies" never met a patch of grass they didn’t want to pave over? What is this fixation these guys have with development? And we are not talking about your usual development, but the rapid urbanization of Straban Township. They are planning to do in ten years what normally would take 100-150 years to accomplish at a normal pace.

Fourth question – who is feeding the people of this area the line of bull that all this development is a good thing? What this kind of development does is deceive two classes of people, the current residents who are lied to when they are told of all the benefits and jobs that will be created by the development, and those who will be attracted to the area because of the development and the promised jobs and low taxes. Development consistently underperforms financially for the area being developed. It does not generally underperform for the developers, however, but they will be long gone before the facts finally sink in that everyone left behind is now holding an empty bag. What they leave behind are those two classes of people, now a single class, faced with mounting government debt, costs, and the resultant skyrocketing taxes. But the developers will be gone, and "The Strabaddies" will be in their beach cabanas in Florida.

Fifth question – what kind of folks are they that want to build a casino here? David LeVan grew up here in Gettysburg, went on to be the CEO of Conrail, and came back to the area to build Battlefield Harley Davidson. He donates generously to many worthy causes in the area, including preservation interests. His wife Jennifer owns a shop in town called Just Jennifer. Now, however, he heads up a group of investors that seek to build a casino here. What boggles the mind about him, and the other investors, is the fact that in spite of very loud and strong opposition to his project, he is content to continue on with it. This is a man who is apparently used to success, and used to getting his way. The kind of arrogance that insists he knows better than the rest of the folks who live here is indicative of someone who allows greed to consume him. In this he is not alone. Bob Monahan is paying the area back for his failure to get the NPS Visitors Center project contract he came so close to back in the 1990s. Local public opinion may have had a role in that back then. But, we have seen his greed explicitly displayed in a newspaper article when he made the comment that the casino was a done deal…it would be built here somewhere, so it might as well be on his property. All the while he was distancing himself from the investors. Monahan has not forgotten the storm over his role in the Visitors Center controversy years ago, so he is now armed with a “See? I am doing something positive for the community” attitude and a historical movie project to prove it.

Both men apparently believe if they spread some money around people will be more inclined to let them have their way. Well, a few will. But most will not. And they will not because they believe it is not in their best interests to allow these two arrogant pseudo-philanthropists and their greedy county and municipal government sycophants to ruin a lifestyle that has taken over 250 years to develop, and that in the process of creating something larger, 150,000 men fought here and created a memorial to our nation, and that memorial, which does not end at the boundaries of the park, will not tolerate being sullied by the likes of a casino, or rampant development.

The people of Adams County need to look at their area and see that it is the area of the California Gold Rush of the 21st century. Developers and investors see fortunes - huge fortunes - to be made along the U.S. 15 corridor. The local residents have been paying the price for a few decades while Straban has been developing its “Golden Mile”. Now "The Strabaddies" have doomed four out of five farms in the township to be handed over for development. Do not think that it won’t happen here. It already has, and continues to happen here. And your nicely balanced, rural, conservative, low tax, low unemployment haven is about to disappear forever, to be replaced by a sprawling urbanized area filled with enormous housing tracts, industrial parks, commercial campuses, shopping malls, lots of hotels, restaurants, movie theaters, and a casino.

And when it is done, when the building stops, the reality will set in. First, the developers will be gone, seen driving south on US 15 with wads of your cash wrapped tightly in their fists. With no more building boom, the county unemployment rate will skyrocket as thousands of construction workers and small contractors who rode the boom are suddenly without any work. Some will move out of the area to compete elsewhere, but most will stick here with kids in the local schools. The tax base will plummet, and those who do have work will start to pay more and more to support the ones who have little or no income. It snowballs from there. Without the tax base, the better teachers will begin to leave through attrition of retirement, and quality education will go down.

The final question is this: What will you do when all of that green is gone? How will your life be enriched by the absence of fields of grain, and corn, and cattle? What will your life be like when the only green that is left is in the Battlefield Park, on the playing fields of the schools, and on the lawns of the summer homes of the investors who paved over the county, built all those industrial plants and office complexes, stores, malls, and housing developments, including the casino?

Greed knows no limits, and has no character. Greed endures no absolute moral values, and has its own ethics. Greed has no memories but vengeful ones. Greed has no friends, and no family, only partners, and partners are expendable. Greed consumes and corrupts absolutely. Greed is blind to itself.

Greed is what we face in Adams County today.

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