Opposition to a proposed casino 1/2 mile from the Gettysburg NMP
Cumberland Township Planning Commission: “The State Will Take Care of It”.
The casino attorneys asked Cumberland Township Supervisors to give them a blank check zoning, or “use permitted by right”. The Supervisors agreed, but the Planning Commission disagreed... until tonight.
At the last Planning Commission meeting on Feb 22, they had decided that Conditional Use Zoning with specific use criteria was the most appropriate. This is the type of zoning that would have required the developer to present his plans and show that the project meets the needs of the community. Conditional use zoning is standard for any project of any size at all. At that meeting the Planning Commission had decided to go with conditional use but did not have adequate time to complete their task.
At that Feb meeting about 12 Cumberland Township resident casino opponents attended, and a letter from a No Casino Gettysburg attorney was presented which argued for conditional use zoning. The letter included the conditional use zoning that Wyomissing had passed for a proposed resort casino license in their community. At the same time, the Adams County Planning Office had completed its review and also recommended conditional use zoning. The Commission tabled the issue in order to clarify the specific use criteria needed. They were to vote on it on 3/11/2010.
The Planning commission is advisory only, so there can be no legal conflict of interest according to the State Ethics Committee. However, Jim Paddock recused himself from the vote on 3/11 because of a perceived conflict due to his No Casino Gettysburg activities. On 3/11/10, one half of the room was filled with 8 Pros, including the Goldens, Jeff Klein,Tommy Gilbert and Richard Kitner. Except for the Goldens, I don’t know whether all these people are residents of Cumberland Township. They were all wearing new, large Pro-Casino buttons. Remember, the public comment was allowed in the previous meeting, not this one.
With one member, Dennis Hickethier, on vacation, and Jim recused, a 3 member panel was left. Two of them, Chairman Jim Henderson and member Barry Stone, began to carry through with the recommendation of conditional use, but the third, Carl Schmick, made a statement that he had been studying all that the PGCB requires of an applicant. Shmick argued that the state had such broad oversight that there was no need for the Township to have conditional use requirements. “I have a comfort level that the state has these items covered.”
The other two members accepted the argument, and the bottom line was that they decided to give up their plans for conditional use zoning. “The State will take care of it”
So tonight the Cumberland Township Planning Commission voted to allow “permitted use” zoning “as of right” or blank check zoning for the casino. There are no conditions with this type of zoning. No plans are required, and no safety measures either.
Jim Henderson pointed out that, “People can testify to the State.” What an interesting counterpoint to the Pro’s argument that local control is what they want. They were all delighted with the “leave it to the state” philosophy in this case.
To me, this was an abdication of responsibility to the citizens of Cumberland Township.
Blank check “as of right” zoning is zoning without any requirements and provides little protection for the taxpayers and residents of Cumberland Township. The investors love it because they don’t have to tell much about what they want to do. The planning commission gave up the right to require a hearing and to place any requirements on any developer.
If this is indeed "the biggest" project ever it ought to have some scrutiny. There are numerous questions:
In the request letter from the investors’ attorney and on the Mason Dixon Resort and Casino website all the youth oriented recreational activities currently available in the All Star Complex and on the property are included as amenities to prove that this is an established resort to the Pa Gaming Control Board. These activities include “a wide variety of recreational facilities including miniature golf, a go-kart track, paddle boats, batting cages, a driving range, virtual golf, billiards, an arcade, indoor soccer, volley ball and basketball.”
Youth sports leagues, resident families, family tourists and family friendly community events such as Adams County Home Show, Children’s Health Day, Dog Shows, Civil War Exhibitors currently use the All Star Complex.
How can the casino co-exist in the same building or even share the same parking lots with these activities? Either they will be eliminated, converted to all adult activities, or the casino investors hope that the youth activities can co-exist with the adults-only casino and its free alcohol, permitted indoor smoking, etc. Don’t Cut out kids for a Casino!
“In order to facilitate such permitting, no changes are proposed initially to the footprint of any building on the Eisenhower Hotel property (only interior alterations are necessary)” Initially must mean long enough to get the zoning they need. We need full disclosure before zoning. We know what they want initially...what do they want the week after?