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Lower Swatara comprehensive plan: Keep cooperation in mind

Posted 8/30/16

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 …

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Lower Swatara comprehensive plan: Keep cooperation in mind

Posted

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