Monday, November 26, 2007

GettysBLOG: …Water, Cool, Clear, Water

The Sons of the Pioneers were a wonderful group of men who sang in many of the old classic westerns, including many of the great John Ford - John Wayne collaborations. They were founded in 1933 by a man named Leonard Slye, who we now know by the name of Roy Rogers. Ken Curtiss, who later went on to fame as Festus in the TV series, Gunsmoke, was John Ford’s son in law. Two of their classics have been placed into the National Archives, Tumbling Tumbleweed, and the other here reproduced [Lyrics only. Sorry!].

Cool Water
All day I face the barren waste
Without the taste of water, cool water
Old Dan and I with throats burned dry
And souls that cry for water, cool, clear, water
Keep a-movin' Dan don't ya listen to him Dan
He's a devil of a man and he spreads the burning sand with water
Dan can you see that big green tree
Where the water's running free
And it's waiting there for you and me?

2. The nights are cool and I'm a fool
Each star's a pool of water, cool water
But with the dawn I'll wake and yawn
And carry on to water, cool, clear, water

3. The shadows sway and seem to say
Tonight we pray for water, cool, water
And way up there He'll hear our prayer
And show us where there's water, cool, clear, water

4. Dan's feet are sore he's yearning for
Just one thing more than water, cool, water
Like me I guess he'd like to rest
Where there's no quest for water, cool, clear, water

As Adams County and the Gettysburg area contemplate the future, they are faced with the prospect of massive growth that has been in the planning stages for many years, and the unmistakable fact that there is a limited water supply in Adams County. Indeed, there are no streams flowing into Adams County. There are several flowing out. Everything that flows out of Adams County eventually enters the Chesapeake Bay.

Now there is a movement to bring up to 3 million gallons a day of Susquehanna River water clear across York County, and halfway across Adams County to the Gettysburg Area – primarily to Cumberland, Mt. Joy, and Straban Townships. Eventually, it might extend farther west and south to Freedom and Liberty Townships.

According to some reports, developers are already sitting on multiple extensions with the various township governments in the area while waiting for water to be assured. Local residents have been informed through the newspapers that the piped water from the Susquehanna will cost the Gettysburg Municipal Authority [GMA] customers an additional $80 per year. This is on top of a 3% rate hike they already enacted in October!

The enormous cost of building the pipeline will be forced on the water customers currently using the Authority’s Water. These customers, then, will be forced to pay for the water to supply houses and businesses that are yet to be built in Adams County. There is already opposition to the pipeline.

See, there is already water here, though the GMA has issued a water rationing order to cut use by 10% because of the terrible dry weather we experienced this summer. There is enough to support the homes and businesses already here. Just. Over the past six or seven years, this is perhaps the third dry summer we have experienced here. Wells have gone dry. New wells are drilled. And the relentless building goes on. Townships claim they are powerless to stop it, or even slow it down.

They lie.

When the public is in danger, GOVERNMENT MUST ACT TO PROTECT THE PUBLIC!

So what do we have from Government? A borough government that breaks its own rules for height restrictions so David Sites can cram two apartment buildings into the downtown area. Cumberland Township exhibits profligate spending of your money with a totally unnecessary project to expand its own facilities, and of your water with a project to build a water park and 100 room hotel on a scant 100 acres near Boyds Bears Country, and the Eisenhower Resort. Freedom and Liberty Township have sold their souls, as well as their farms to the developers from Maryland to build mega-developments of 1,000 houses or more. Straban changes its zoning to eliminate 11,000 acres of current green [open, farm, forest, etc.] to commercial/industrial/residential zoning. Mt. Joy Township is facing the same pressure from developers but seems to be handling it better than the rest. Up north, Butler Township and Biglerville Borough are struggling not just with water issues but with sewer issues, and shamelessly sucked in Cumberland Township into rescuing a developer so he could cram more homes onto the available acreage.

Townships put up development rules that require certain percentages of housing tracts to be set aside as green space and recreation area. They do not close the door for the developer to go to that space later and build in it, setting aside a smaller portion of it as green space and recreation area. And then later still, building on the green that’s left, and setting aside a percentage for green space and recreation area, then later still… It is the law of diminishing returns at work.

Your local government does not care. They do not care that supposed job creation by the development is wholly and totally unnecessary, and the so called economic boom to come with the development is not needed.

Adams County is about as close to Eden as you will find anywhere in the world. Good economy, low unemployment, high wages, low taxes, it is one of the most stable economies in the country. Between Agriculture, Fruit, and Tourism, the economy is stable and strong enough toward off inflation or recession. If one of the industries comes on hard times the others do not, and in fact, share the load of three among two.

So, why Adams County and not northern Frederick County in Maryland, which makes much more sense for the home buyers from Washington, DC? Several reasons: Adams County land is cheaper to acquire by the developers. Township, County and State government have all been conspiring to lure developers into Pennsylvania for decades and have set up laws governing the local government zoning authorities and stacking it in favor of the developers. There may also not be enough water in Frederick County, though it would be much cheaper to pipe water from the Potomac than it is to run it out from the Susquehanna River to us. Finally, the economy is so good the developers can then con the customers from the DC area with promises of low taxes, and a heritage-linked address.

But in the end, it will come down to water.

The planned development will essentially double the population of Adams County, destroy much of the farm and open green space in the county, and put such a strain on the water resources the residents will have no choice but to pay for the Susquehanna River water, and put themselves at the mercy of every community between the Susquehanna and Gettysburg. What’s left will be a vehicle-choked tangle of old roads, and new houses, new schools, and hospitals, more police and fire, and more crime.

And when the encroaching development hits the next phase demanding to put housing all the way out to the foot of South Mountain, the sprawl will strongly resemble that of Las Vegas, which is paving over the desert until they get to canyon walls. But we don’t have the Colorado River near by, nor the great Hoover Dam.

The decision is being forced on you now. Developers are waiting out the terribly depressed housing market. No one is building housing right now, and no one is loaning mortgage money. So the developers have no choice but to sit tight on their investment and take tax write-offs at the end of the year. But the developers like Wormold, S&A, Sites, Monahan, and LeVan can afford to wait.

Now you have to ask yourself, if somebody has to lose money out of this situation, who should it be, you, or the developers?

Tonight we pray for water, cool, water
And way up there He'll hear our prayer
And show us where there's water, cool, clear, water

Choose wisely Adams County, because if you choose the wrong path, what you see around you now will cease to exist. And it will not take long.


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