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Plans unveiled for Gettysburg-area casino

Written by Lillian Reed/Hanover Evening Sun | Mar 9, 2017 9:46 AM
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Representatives of the casino and horse racing track project Mason-Dixon Downs have submitted preliminary plans, which are subject to change, to Freedom Township's board of supervisors. (Photo: Submitted - The Evening Sun)

(Gettysburg) -- The public got a first glimpse Wednesday of Mason-Dixon Downs, a casino and horse racing track proposed in the greater Gettysburg area.

More than 70 people crowded into Freedom Township's board of supervisors meeting Wednesday to hear project representatives give a presentation on Mason-Dixon Downs. Some in attendance wore buttons and stickers proclaiming either support or opposition to the project.

This is Gettysburg businessman David LeVan's third attempt to bring a casino to Adams County. Previous attempts in 2005-06 and again in 2010 spurred enormous debate between residents -- some supported the proposal because of potential economic benefits and others condemned the project for encroaching on Gettysburg National Military Park and hallowed ground.

"What we're proposing isn't new," LeVan said Wednesday. "In fact, in a commonwealth with such rich history, it's somewhat common. Gaming and Pennsylvania's rich historical heritage already co-exist quite nicely."

The presentation, along with informational documents submitted to Freedom Township, revealed new visual details the venue, which will sit back from the main road with traffic access created via a new boulevard. Another entry point for horse trainers and jockeys is proposed off Bullfrog Road.

The venue will have its own trained security team and is assigned by law 11 Pennsylvania State Troopers. Current property owner Mason Dixon Country Club previously had the property archaeologically surveyed and was granted clearance by Pennsylvania Historical & Museum Commission, according to the documents.

One topic that remains unclear is how much in revenue Freedom Township will get from the project should it come to fruition. Pennsylvania legislators are in the process of determining a formula for a municipality's share of gaming revenue. LeVan is willing to work with Freedom Township privately to establish how much in gaming funds it will receive annually should the legislation not be completed in time, he said.

David LeVan, a local businessman, has proposed a casino and horse track in Freedom Township. Sean Heisey, The Evening Sun

 

The project's attorney, Bernie Yannetti, pointed out in February 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.

Some residents and members of the public urged the supervisors at the beginning of the meeting to halt the project at the local level before it proceeds to licensing hearings through the State Horse Racing Commission and the Gaming Control Board.

Susan Paddock, chairperson of the activist group No Casino Gettysburg, presented the supervisors with a petition, signed by 3,300 people, objecting to Mason-Dixon Downs.

"His previous attempts split our community, but never received a single favorable vote from the PA Gaming Control Board," Paddock said. "Please don't put us through that again. We're asking Freedom Township to take a stand and simply say, thanks but no thanks."

Freedom Township resident Lucas Waybright presented supervisors with a letter signed by several family members indicating they believe a casino ma negatively impact the management of their family farm.

"This current zoning provides an appropriate buffer to preserve the countryside as an open and mostly rural space," Waybright said, reading from the letter. "We can think of nothing further from this standard of land protection than a casino."

LeVan announced in January that he was applying for Pennsylvania's only available casino license reserved specifically for harness racing tracks. He plans to build both a harness racing track and casino in Freedom Township on a property bordering the Maryland line off of Route 15.

The project's representatives asked Freedom Township supervisors in February to begin the process of considering an zoning ordinance change. LeVan has a purchase agreement for about 700 acres, which are zoned in part as a mixed-use district that does not specifically allow for a casino and harness racetrack.

Zoning ordinance issues and changes are typically handled by a municipality's planning commission, but Freedom supervisors opted in February to hold off on passing the issue to the commission until more information had been made available.

After the presentation was finished Wednesday, the supervisors voted unanimously to refer the issue to the planning commission.

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

Published in Adams County, News

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