By Robin Fitzpatrick
I’m going to put you on the spot today and start with three questions. Let’s see how you do!
Q: Why is planning for land use important?
A: Similar to other plans, it outlines where we want to go! The goal of land-use planning is to further the health, safety and welfare of people and their communities by meeting their needs while safeguarding natural resources. It’s the process by which lands are evaluated and assessed to become a basis for decisions involving land use and configuration. Here’s a hint. Remember the terms evaluated and assessed!
Q: Who has the most influence over land use in your community?
A: The answer is… the officials who govern Adams County’s 13 boroughs and 21 townships.
Q: Is there a relationship between land use and taxes?
A: You bet! The value of land is different based upon its location, how it is used, what is built on top of it, etc. Ideally, communities try to establish areas for all types of use and arrange them in a manner where they are complimentary and do not conflict with one another.
The higher the value of land, the more revenue the taxing body receives. There is a tipping point at which developed land will no longer be what is the highest and best use for a community. Remember, land use plans include all uses and they remain in balance or complimentary to our natural resources.
We all know that real estate taxes are used as a source of revenue for governing bodies. For those of you who were not born, bred and raised in PA, think back on the first time you received a tax bill. And then another one came. And another. Welcome to the Commonwealth! Our tax dollars fund operations for the county, the municipality and the school district. Remember, they are charged with the health, safety and welfare of the citizenry. And thanks to Thomas Jefferson, the ‘free’ education for our youth!
Local governments/taxing bodies are sensitive to the size of the tax base and they prefer to expand it so they don’t have to raise taxes every year. But how do we expand the tax base without over development? Well, we plan! Much of this happens at the municipal level. Each municipality goes through a great deal of study and planning in order to create and maintain the community that their citizens want. Some have more development than preservation; some the opposite. Major factors affecting development include road accessibility, sewer and water availability.
I recently had the pleasure of speaking at a meeting of the Upper Adams School District’s Board of Directors and explaining how ACEDC has made an impact in their school district. Since 2005, ACEDC has assisted at least 20 businesses located within the Upper Adams School District, via low interest loans provided by the Commonwealth to expand existing businesses, or by providing business tools and contacts for new/existing businesses. All of these activities created and/or preserved jobs… impacting, you guessed it, the tax base, which benefitted the school district. Some of the businesses located in Upper Adams’ footprint include Zeigler Brothers, Rice Fruit Company, the Bendersville Fire Company, Showers Tree Farm, Smithfield Farms, and many more (see map above).
And now for the most important part: residents. Yes, the people who live in Adams County’s boroughs and townships, and comprise the loyal, dedicated workforces to run the businesses of which we speak, who LIVE in the very neighborhoods, boroughs, and townships of which we speak. Is there affordable housing for our workforce and their families? Are they safe, warm, and do they have enough money for food and other necessities of life?
Everything comes full circle. Again, who has the most influence over land use in your neighborhood, school district, community—which impacts your quality of life, your job, your home? I dare say the fate of your needs, desires, and dreams rest in the hands of your borough or municipal officials who guide and shape the land that surrounds the place where you have chosen to live. Get to know your borough and municipal leaders—they impact your life more than you probably realize. Going one step further, get involved in your local municipality to make an impact in your community!
Robin Fitzpatrick, President of ACEDC, looks forward to speaking with additional Adams County school district boards during 2017. For additional information on ACEDC, see acedc.org, and follow the organization on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter, or call 717-334-0042.