News

Adams County casino project faces zoning hurdle

Written by Lillian Reed/Hanover Evening Sun | Feb 3, 2017 2:55 PM
adams_county_casino.jpg

Residents express their concern over a proposal to build a casino and racetrack during a Freedom Township meeting on Thursday, Feb. 2, 2017. (Photo: Dan Rainville, The Evening Sun)

(Gettysburg) -- Plans to bring a casino to Adams County may have hit its first obstacle in the form of Freedom Township's zoning rules.

Freedom's board of supervisors discussed Thursday the plan to build a standardbred harness racing track, a casino and an entertainment venue within the Adams County township.

David LeVan, who owns Battlefield Harley-Davidson in Gettysburg, is the local businessman behind the plan to build complex, called Mason-Dixon Downs.

The property where LeVan wishes to build Mason-Dixon Downs is currently owned by the Mason Dixon Country Club, located along the Maryland border, about three miles from the Gettysburg National Military Park.

Plans to bring a casino to Adams County may have hit its first obstacle in the form of Freedom Township's zoning rules.

Freedom's board of supervisors discussed Thursday the plan to build a standardbred harness racing track, a casino and an entertainment venue within the Adams County township.

David LeVan, who owns Battlefield Harley-Davidson in Gettysburg, is the local businessman behind the plan to build complex, called Mason-Dixon Downs.

The property where LeVan wishes to build Mason-Dixon Downs is currently owned by the Mason Dixon Country Club, located along the Maryland border, about three miles from the Gettysburg National Military Park.

"We have an opportunity to do something special here in Adams County," LeVan said in a January news release. "We've listened to those who were concerned about our previously proposed location. That's why this project will be located 2.5 miles farther southeast, across a major highway and along the Maryland border." 

This newest hurdle involves the large swath of land LeVan has been eyeing for his project, which is zoned in part as a mix-use district. That zoning category does not allow for casinos and lists specific restrictions, such as building size, that may conflict with LeVan's plans.

LeVan's attorney and engineer for the project were present at the meeting Thursday, but did not have any formalized plan to present to the supervisors. After a brief discussion with the township's solicitor, officials suggested the Mason-Dixon Downs representatives submit an application to have the zoning ordinance amended.

Freedom supervisors Allen Beckett and Matt Young made a motion to direct the review of an application to the planning commission, which typically handles zoning ordinance issues and then gives a formal recommendation back to supervisors. Supervisor Dan Golliday was absent from the meeting.

The motion was quickly interrupted by calls for public comment coming from the audience, which was comprised of about 35 people.

Several residents expressed concerns passing the project to the planning commission without having seen even a rough plan of what it might include.

Beckett asked the Mason Dixon Downs representatives to present more details of the project at the next supervisors meeting March 8.

The project's attorney Bernie Yannetti pointed out that any designs handed over to the township would be only rough renderings and that the way the zoning ordinance changes may affect the final details of the plan.

"I understand time is money, but we've got residents who have lived here their whole life," Beckett said. "I hear legality of it but I'm asking for your compassionate side. I don't see anyone with pitchforks here tonight."

Yannetti agreed to get project plans and a redacted version of the land purchase agreement to the township within the next several weeks.

Still, residents used public comment to point out several more hurdles the township may be forced to address should Mason Dixon Downs come to fruition. Some of those concerns included the township's lack of a police force and reliance on other municipalities for fire service and the availability of enough water to support both residents and a large complex like Mason Dixon.

Following the meeting, Beckett and Young answered questions from a number of residents about the process moving forward.

If the planning commission decides to recommend amending the zoning ordinance, the supervisors may opt to have a public hearing to gauge public opinion and answer more questions, Young said.

Should the zoning ordinance be changed, Mason Dixon Downs will still need formal approval from the zoning board, the planning commission and the township supervisors as well as the county planning commission before construction can move forward.

At the moment, the Freedom supervisors' primary goal is to make sure the process of reviewing the project is done right for residents, who will be impacted directly by the presence of a casino and harness racetrack, Beckett said.

"I'm here for Freedom Township -- no one else," Beckett said.

This article is part of a partnership between WITF and the Hanover Evening Sun.

 

Published in Adams County, News

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