(1/2015) Happy New Year! It's now 2015, champagne has been popped, party debris cleaned up, and hopefully resolutions still intact. For your Adams County Commissioners 2015 means its an election year and I have a resolution for 2015 that has and will continue to guide my service to Adams County. Economic Development. Wow, not that's a show
stopper, yet another elected official saying that we need a strong tax base to move forward. Jobs, Jobs, Jobs...You've heard it all before, so I won't bore you with cliches. The truth is it is a lot harder to understand economics and business development than it is to cheer about it. I am no expert, but my past three years in office have taught me that "Economic
Development" is one of the most misunderstood concepts in politics and means different things to different people. The past three years also taught me that if I want to serve Adams County, I had to learn from the experts quickly.
Before I begin to lay out concepts on this subject I must give thanks especially, but not solely, to Nick Collona, our most recent past Planning Director, and Robin Fitzpatrick, the Director of the Adams County Industrial Development Authority and Economic Development Corporation. I was privileged to watch the two of them in action
discussing and debating how to move a community forward, allowing for both preservation and growth, balancing historic strengths yet leaving room for new business innovation. Our County Treasurer, Terry Adamick, told me when I took office that few people truly understand County government and that you need to educate, educate, educate.
Before there was a building there was a plan. The building became a neighborhood, became a town, a city, a county... While it was easy to define a building, "Jane's house", and sometimes a neighborhood, "Ranch section", it gets more complicated to define a community. New York is the city that never sleeps, Philly is the city of brotherly
love. So how do you define your community, how do you define Adams County? Ask a fruit grower in Biglerville and a Hotel owner in Gettysburg and you will get different answers. I have found it interesting that many people define their community by what it does, we are fruit growers or we are stewards of history. While there is clearly more that defines us than
what we do, for the purposes of an economic development discussion, this is an important lens to use.
In Pennsylvania what we do and where we do it are defined by our municipalities. Municipalities control planning and zoning, while you get to decide what you want to do (build a house or business) municipal planning and zoning determine where that can exist. For those of you unfamiliar with Pa planning, the basic rule is that each
municipality or regional group of municipalities must allow for every building use. So there must be areas for housing, business, industrial, farming, etc... This zoning forms the backbone of the community and its neighborhoods. Over the course of years these zones get blurred or were never very clearly defined to begin with and there is the inevitable conflict
between users. Houses next to chicken farms, houses next to "smoke stack" industries. It is when these conflicts occur that the definition of a community is tested. Are we rural or urban; quaint historic small town or forward thinking industrial community? This dynamic may never change, but I believe that while we have a lull in our economy and before the next
wave of development, now is the time to really work on this issue of definition. With better definition to our Community, we will be in a proactive development position and be able to attract what we want and continue defining who we are.
As a County we took a first step by creating a Priority Preservation Map to help us define what we currently want to preserve in our county. Geographically there are two very important areas in our community. Our unique soils and geography are the basis for our fruit and agricultural industries, arguably some of the best in the Country. Our
historic landscapes centered around the Civil War are equally important. While we may differ as a community on how much land should be preserved to maintain these economic drivers, few rational people can argue against that these industries require specific lands to function. The Priority Preservation map took into account soil quality, local planning and zoning,
existing preserved farms, and the County's comprehensive plan in determining the ranking of lands for preservation. This map was an important first step, just as a doctor's first priority is to do no harm, so too must we in planning our future be careful that we not detract from our existing strengths.
The next step in the process is to create a Planned Communities Map, which should be finished this year. This map is almost the flip side of the Preservation Map. While the Preservation Map focused on soils and proximity to other farms and open space to not develop, the Communities Map focuses on infrastructure and proximity to other
industries that should be developed. Businesses, especially larger industrial uses, need utility services, larger roads, high speed internet, and often proximity to highways. The goal of the Planned Communities Map is to take a bird's eye view of the entire County and truly see where we are and where we have the potential to grow. Growth is a fact, but what that
growth is and where it belongs can be controlled. This map along with the Priority Preservation Map will be the guiding documents for the County and hopefully the municipalities moving forward.
If we are to be successful as a County, and not just as a collection of 34 municipalities, we need to begin an open and honest discussion about how we want to develop in the future. We cannot simple wait for each controversial development to fuel the argument. Let's have a discussion instead of a reactive argument.
When I outlined my campaign idea to my campaign manager and team, they told me to put my money where my mouth is. Last month my campaign team told me that if economic development is the number one topic and it is confusing then it is my responsibility to explain my stance as a candidate this year and not just as a County Commissioner. If I
intend to serve Adams County for four more year, than I have a duty to be open and honest with you as to where I stand. To that end I am having a town hall meeting on January 31st from 2:00 to 4:00 at the Charlie Sterner building at the Gettysburg Area Recreational Authority in Gettysburg (the Rec Park).
Please join me on the 31st and see where this discussion takes us. If you have any questions about these issues or the town hall meeting, I may be reached at email@example.com or 717-339-6514.
Read other articles from Adams County Commissioners