This is to provide some background information for the public meeting Aug. 25, 2016, regarding the update to the Lower Swatara Township Comprehensive Plan of 2004.
We are owners of Bryncoed Farm on Fulling Mill Road, encompassing roughly 200 acres. Ours has been a family farm since 1933, when our parents, Sam and Carol Williams moved here from Philadelphia and Manhattan and began providing good, pure milk door-to-door for Harrisburg area families.
All of us were born and raised here, and many of us still are your neighbors. Sam was president of the Middletown Area School Board, and was instrumental in establishing the new high school in the 1960s. Recently that building has been removed to make way for something new.
For 83 years our family has appreciated our Lower Swatara community as a very good place to live, work, and raise a family. We hope we have been good neighbors, good citizens, and good friends. Our roots are deep. Now our farming days are done. We are up in years. There is no one to carry on the farm. It is no longer practical to maintain the property as a farm. So the time has come to sell the land, even though we regret leaving our homestead.
Though some of our new neighbors’ roots are not so deep, we like any other citizen, hope to make the best use of our property in light of changing conditions around us. Every homeowner and business owner expects to have the freedom to move on and to benefit from the market for their property. Any good neighbor realizes compromises all around are necessary for the benefit of everyone.
We understand using the family farm for residential development is attractive, but residential use brings downsides as well, such as increased pressure to raise taxes for school expansion, more police and fire support, more expense in general. Few of our neighbors are likely to be interested in higher taxes.
Other uses increase revenue and keep taxes low without reducing services. Some say taxes go up anyway; think of the tax increases to support 200 acres raising children. Local businesses like Tyco, Hershey Creamery, Phoenix Contact and FedEx, etc., pay school taxes, but don’t add to the load of education.
Our township property taxes are the highest by millage rate of any township in the county, and we would like to help prevent taxes from going higher. Zoning names like “Industrial” and “Industrial Park” do not mean smokestacks, especially here. Businesses know how important it is to be a good neighbor, just as we have tried to be for more than eight decades.
The people who will get jobs in new businesses and then live here will want the same quiet, livable community as any other family. So it is important that new businesses build buffer areas to blend with the neighborhood. Reducing sight and sound is vital, and we believe the township is already working on that balance. In fact, on page 36 of the draft comprehensive plan, Alternative 2 already includes the requirement for buffering “from visual and operational impacts.”
Solving congestion is a matter of traffic planning, replacing poor traffic patterns with new, efficient, quieter routes. The sound of trucks on Fulling Mill Road is less of an impact than the rumble strips at the turnpike interchange. (Replacing those rumble strips with quieter traffic control methods would be a big improvement.)
Truck impacts can be controlled, just as with airports. It takes cooperation, not antagonism. Some may choose to be loud and aggressive, but we chose to work together for a more vibrant community for all.
Because this is an ideal central transportation hub for the goods of the Eastern Seaboard, this area will probably not be used for agriculture much longer. Air, rail, and interstates make our area very attractive, not only for a warehouse, but also for technology, commerce and small business. That means jobs.
Many of the offers that have come our way wish to use the land for Industrial Park or Industrial Park Light. Those uses do not mean blight, just as existing businesses on Fulling Mill Road are not offensive. We agree traffic planning needs a lot of improvement. We believe the township is quite sensitive to achieving cooperation among all parties, so our community will continue to grow as a great place to live and work.
To the township: Please consider this viewpoint as you update the comprehensive plan.
Thomas and Theresa Williams, Michael and Virginia Williams, Henry and Catherine Williams, Margaret Williams Stoops
Lower Swatara Township
Last Updated on Tuesday, 30 August 2016 16:18
For more than a year now, I have regularly attended the Lower Swatara Township Board of Commissioners’ workshop and legislative meetings. It is one of the ways that I connect with my community since I have retired. It may sound corny to some but I feel it is my civic responsibility as well.
What I have observed is the responsible manner in which our local commissioners utilize our tax funds. They repeatedly search for ways to save money, provide better services, and repair badly needed infrastructure. They passed balanced budgets the past two years without raising taxes. They apply for, and utilize, grants whenever possible. They partner with other agencies to provide more cohesive services in public works, police services, and essential community needs. They reissued bonds to save hundreds of thousands in tax-payer dollars. In addition, they are reviewing new and old ordinances, studying pension and benefit packages, and evaluating the need for staff positions. And I don’t think I’ve ever attended a meeting where roadwork, park improvement, or storm water management was not on the agenda.
However, lately it concerns me how the Press and Journal reports the news. I expect to see more responsible reporting that covers both sides of an issue and to be able to read the facts without a biased or slanted news article.
The behavior of a few residents who attend the township meetings is also distressing. When residents have a problem that they need help in solving or want a question answered, they come up to the microphone, state their name and address, and then speak directly to the commissioners. The commissioners address their concern by providing timely information in return, explaining they need to seek out additional data, or that they must talk to all related parties.
However, there seems to be a trend among some residents that when the answer or timeframe is not to their liking, they rudely walk away while the commissioner is in the middle of a statement. What has happened to common courtesy and joint community effort in solving problems? What has happened to a little bit of patience?
I have never seen a commissioner speak offensively to anyone, look down on anyone (regardless of how they are dressed or have acted), or not taken even the smallest issue seriously. I take notes at the meetings and have found they have always followed up with the resident in some manner.
I wrote this letter to the editor because I have lost tolerance with half-truths, unprofessional reporting, and “Sound-Off” assassinations. I’ve attended other area borough meetings and school board meetings that are nowhere near the level of professionalism that I have witnessed at my township meetings. Does everyone forget who was on the board before? When over 700 residents signed a petition against farmland being rezoned for commercial development, the commissioners of the past did not listen to the residents. We are now blessed with intelligent, fair men who are currently our commissioners, who provide positive and constructive feedback, who dress appropriately for meetings, and who use proper decorum at all times.
In case you are reading this and don’t know the names of the Lower Swatara Township commissioners, they are: President Thomas L. Mehaffie III, Vice President Jon G. Wilt, Commissioner Michael J. Davies, Commissioner Laddie J. Springer, and Commissioner Todd F. Truntz. Along with them every first and third Wednesday are Peter R. Henninger, our township solicitor; Erin Letavic, HRG contracted engineer; Anne Shambaugh, township manager; and Jean Arroyo, administrative assistant.
If you missed one of the recent township meetings, you should know our current commissioners are interviewing to hire two police officers, have completed the purchase of a new police car (it is being detailed by a local dealer), have approved the purchase of a new truck for the Municipal Authority that will also be used for plowing snow, are looking to begin 2017 budget meetings, and are working to repair two township bridges, while providing other routine duties.
The public and each commissioner are provided time to speak at every meeting. Even after the public comment period, President Mehaffie usually asks if there are any other questions or comments from the public before the meeting is closed.
I urge you to come to a township meeting and learn what is really happening and what is actually being discussed. Let’s show some support and find out what you can do to help your community become a better place to live.
Lower Swatara Township
Last Updated on Wednesday, 10 August 2016 11:47
Reading an article in the Press And Journal recently about the Elks Theatre, I was compelled to share some thoughts on the matter.
After a recent visit to Alexandria, Virginia, and touring the Torpedo Factory and Art Center, it seemed an obvious restorative solution for this historic landmark.
Establish a creative, inspired space offering classes, rental opportunities, studio spaces, etc. The Elks Theatre would be a great focal area for community involvement. Offer a “maker space,” studio spaces for local artists, shops for local small business owners, and event rental opportunity. It would be an eclectic mix of interests to the downtown area.
These innovative places, much like the new Millworks in Harrisburg, not only offer opportunity for artists to showcase their work, but allow the public to witness the artist while working. A small gallery could also be part of the theme housed in this space. Offering exposure for local artists and an outlet for younger generations to the many positive benefits of creative expression.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 10 August 2016 11:45
Written by Scott Sites
Members of Middletown Council and citizens:
I am writing you with regards to the Elks Theatre. It is my position that the Borough of Middletown should not engage in the owning or funding of a movie theater.
The industry as a whole is going through challenges, one of those challenges involve the ability to watch movies from the comfort of your home.
The Elks as we all know is a one-screen movie theatre. This significantly impacts the revenue that may be generated from such an operation.
You may ask, how does that limit revenue? Well, it restricts your audience.Do you show children movies? Horror movies? Comedy? No matter what movie you show you are limiting your audience.
You might that say we could add a stage to have performing arts or band performances. This sounds great, but can we compete with Hershey or Harrisburg?
Additionally, history is meant to evolve.
For example, HersheyPark Arena, a local entertainment venue. There was much history made in the arena, whether it was the Hershey Bears winning eight Calder Cups or Wilt Chamberlain scoring 100 points in an NBA game.
But the arena’s time came and so the Giant Center was built.
Why was it built? Because the old arena couldn’t compete with the new ones. There were no luxury boxes, no club seats and no air conditioning!
The Elks Theatre is much like the HersheyPark Arena. Its time has come and gone and new and expanded theaters have popped across the region. It is now time for those theaters to make history much like the Giant Center.
In closing, the people of this town must ask themselves if they had just $500,000 would you invest that money in a business that will not generate a return on your investment? If you answer no, then the only choice is to close the doors for the final time on the Elks Theatre.
What it turns into I don’t know, but I do know that it cannot be a theater at this point, especially on my dime.
Editor’s note: Sites is a former member of the Borough Council.
Last Updated on Tuesday, 02 August 2016 16:29