The Edge of the Wood

by John Messeder, Nemophilist & Ecological Storyteller

Thoughts on the cost of new homes

John's picture(Published in the Gettysburg Times, 3/21/2014)

An article in the Gettysburg Times reported on “Discovery Gettysburg,” a 2,000-unit housing development proposed for the intersection of US15 and PA394 (Shrivers Corners Road).

It’s a fact that residential growth is the most expensive when compared to agricultural and industrial. For one thing, each new worker living in a residential development occupies a separate home; the same number of employees work together in stores, factories or office buildings.

Straban Township for years has avoided the cost of creating it’s own police department. But nice homes with large-screen televisions in the living rooms and nice cars parked in front are magnets for crooks eager to profit. If we want to provide jobs, there is an industry waiting to move in. To borrow from bank robber Willie Sutton, “It’s where the money is.”

Volunteer fire companies already are complaining of poverty in both finances and volunteers. We might ask who will pay for the additional ambulance, and probably new Medic truck, with attendant 24/7 emergency responder staff, for Gettysburg Fire Department? And who builds the inevitable satellite station to mitigate the additional response time for emergency vehicles to get through traffic on York and Old Harrisburg Roads that is even now increasing (and it’s not even tourist season yet)?

Homes in the orchardAnd if we assume only “adults” live there, who pays for expansion of medical services – enlarging Gettysburg Hospital and/or building satellite medical service centers such as the one on Biglerville Road north of Aspers – for an aging population?

New housing developments mean much more impervious surface – mostly new roofs and roads – to block water infiltrating the underground water supply. The new roads also mean additional workers and equipment to maintain additional roads, and additional equipment to clear the winter snow.

From whence will come the water for those thousands of new residents to drink and wash their clothes and selves? GMA had, for a time, a requirement that developers had to bring their own water, either from a well or pipeline. Last summer, the authority repealed that requirement, saying it had enough water to supply present and anticipated needs.

Yet the agency still pursues purchasing three million gallons a day from York Water Company. About a half-million of those gallons would provide for the new 2,000 residences, but the financial burden of providing that water will be shared by all current and future GMA customers.

The new homes will require wastewater treatment. A couple years ago, FranklinTownship was forced to build a treatment plant to serve some 300 customers. Cost? Nearly $8 million, plus hookup fees to the new customers.

An “adult community” implies no children to add to Gettysburg area schools, but the job market and a recovering but far from full-employment economy virtually guarantees at least some of those homes will eventually be home to public school-age children as many young adults continue to return to their parents’ homes to live and, often, raise their own families.

By the way, I’m guessing residents of that adult, no children, community will be eligible to run for school board – they will be, after all, residents of the district – and, not counting any possible children, 4,000 additional voters is a significant block of ballots.

Tax Increment Financing – a form of public-private partnership in which, essentially, the developer is given a tax break for several years – can work to attract industrial and commercial enterprise. In essence, it asks taxpayers to help pay for its infrastructure.

But industrial growth, we hope, brings long-term long-lasting, well-paying jobs. Residential growth is more like the cable television company advertising a low rate “for three months” in return for a two year contract. But when the initial come-on period is over, and the hundreds of residential construction jobs have moved on to the next new development, everyone who signed on faces the new, never-lower, bills.

It’s something to think about while inviting all those new residents to come Discover Gettysburg.

1 Comment

  1. I wholeheartedly agree.

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