Thursday, May 31, 2007

A Celebration, and a Revised Agenda

Very quietly last week we passed a milestone here on GettysBLOG. May 24th was our second anniversary. Happy Anniversary to us! More appropriately, congratulations to you.

Of course, you must realize that without all you readers, we would not be here. Your loyalty is inspiring. When we look back at the things we have accomplished together, there are some pretty big events in our personal resumes of which we can be suitably proud. I do not mean that just you readers accomplished these Herculeans tasks, but you all had an enormous hand in what was accomplished.

Two events that occured in the waning months of 2006 stand out above all others, and we can all claim a hand in both of them. Specifically, the November election, which was the culmination of a seventeen month long effort that began in the summer of 2005 with Operation Clean Sweep, resulted in one of the largest legislative turnovers in the history of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and the rejection of the proposed Casino in Gettysburg loom large on the record here.

While several scores of incumbents failed to run for office, or were literally tossed out on their ears in primaries, or the General election, the result was as effective as the original Bastille Day. Even more important, perhaps, is the fact that the General Assembly is now seriously working on reform, albeit at a much slower pace than is desired. Still, it is 100% more work on reform than was done in the past few years.

A large part of that was the local defeat of seven-term Republican Representative Steve Maitland, who spent 14 years in the House basically not doing a damned thing. What mattered in the end was his personal ethics and lack of integrity, which angered the voters here enough to toss him in the primary. His record on the infamous Midnight Pay Raise was atrocious, and when we pleaded with him to give back the "unvouchered expense", he refused, using it to pay for [pick one] A. law school, B. a backyard pool, C. both, or D. other. In a seven month snit between Primary and the end of the term, Maitland still did little until the waning days of his legislative "career" [free ride is more like it!] in December, when he made an impassioned speech to his peers on the floor of the house, essentially calling we voters idiots for voting him out of office! He claimed we didn't know how good we had it. Well....Steve, it is more appropriate to say you didn't know how good you had it, and we certainly knew how good we did not have it. That's why you are where you are now, with a ruined reputation thanks to succumbing to greed.

The casino project ultimately failed on its business plan. The promises made by David LeVan and a circle of attornies that most resembled a game of musical chairs, as a different one popped up in the press to mouth vacuous claims in turn, were, in the end, their undoing. We point with pride to the fact that we showed with figures that the very basic premises claimed by the Crossroads Casino group were essentially lies: the area did not need the economic development, nor would it benefit from it. The area economy is stable, has been for years, and is likely to remain stable for decades, unless the threatened runaway development occurs.

But you listened, and understood, and you put pressure on public officials, and it paid off. Many of you even testified against the casino in the public hearings. You won out against powerful political influences with tons of money spent. And be prepared, David LeVan has more in store for us. He hates to lose, just as Bob Monahan does. Monahan just got some more payback with the County agreeing to pay $2.3 million for the roadwork at the entrance to his development proiect at Gateway Gettysburg. Once again Monahan sticks it to the locals here as payback for losing out to Kinsley Construction for the contract on the new Park Visitors Center. Look for similar vindictiveness from LeVan.

Our work is incomplete, however. Straban Township still must undo its wretched work on its rezoning accomplished in 2005. A rural/agricultural township, it rezoned more than 80% of itself for development into commercial, industrial, business, and high density residential zones, leaving very little green space. Cumberland Township is on the same trail, as are Highland, Butler, Mt. Joy, Freedom and Liberty Townships. Each of them is fighting high density housing development, at least giving the appearance of struggling with it. It is an unnecessary fight, as we will propose later.

It would have happened already if the bottom had not dropped out of the housing market. We don't wish for bad news on anyone [well...almost anyone], but this is great news for the people of Adams County. Of the two industries that provide 90% of the economic stability in this county, being agriculture [fruit, primarily, but also dairy, and crops like wheat and corn], and tourism, specifically the wonderful jewel of a National Park at Gettyswburg Battlefield, the great National Military Park is what brings millions of visitors to the area every year, and those visitors bring in tons of money. Everyone, from the locals to the Federal government shares in that munificent blessing of cash flowing into our area each year.

But if the townships surrounding the historic areas continue on their destructive path to ramapant high denisty housing development, they will destroy the Park, and its tourism. How? They will destroy the rural context of the Battlefield. They will choke the roads with traffic. Imagine yourself during the first week in July trying to get east on US 30 toward York. It already takes longer than 10 mninutes to go the half mile from WalMart's light to through the light at East Cavalry Field. [Thank people like the insidious Jay McDannell of the Straban Township Board of Supervisors for that!]. Now imagine it 20 times worse. Now imagine it 20 times worse year round! That is what you will face in that one area if the planned housing goes through.

Economically, the housing projects will be failures. There is no market. The developers will lose their investments while waiting to sell all those houses. And the tens of thousands of people from Washington D.C., and Baltimore who want to buy up here for the value and the low taxes-- how do you think they will like their commute from Gettysburg to the Capital at $3.09/gallon? How do you think they'll react when their real estate and school taxes triple a year or two after they move here? [PR campaigns are waiting in the wings to warn potential buyers in this area of skyrocketing property taxes likely looming with the developments.]

Most of the boards in those townships mentioned above, both Supervisors and Zoning Boards, have remade their zoning ordinances to make it so easy to build a high denisty housing development "a cave man could do it!"

The answer to this dilemma is to elect new Supervisors and County Commissioners that will restructure zoning to do away with high density zoning entirely, except within already incorporated towns, or boroughs. We are not suggesting those boards remove high density zoning from their plans, we are demanding that they specifically exclude high density housing zoning. The County economy will not support it, nor will the county's ecology. There is not enough water, and the runoff and waste will simply pollute the Potomac River and the lower Chesapeake Bay even more than is already being spread there.

So, dear and faithful readers, our work is cut out for us. There can be no resting on our laurels as much remains to be done. Together, we can make a difference, as we have already proven. Anything is possible.

GettysBLOG

We support the Roadmap to Reform!

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