Oped: New vision for Hellam

Board of Supervisors, Hellam Township

Hellam Township can boast being the first in York County to incorporate from a 1739 charter granted by William Penn. The first residents of Hellam were pioneers in this strange wilderness of the unknown.  Not afraid to take chances, these leaders took a leap of faith with their conviction for a better life and more prosperous future for their families. Amazingly, many descendants of the Hellam’s founding fathers have remained here from generation to generation; working hard in the field or factory to provide for their families and to live the American Dream.

Wildcat Falls, Hellam Township

This dream however has been threatened by factors outside the control of Hellam’s periphery. From global outsourcing of manufacturing jobs, out of control state spending, and escalating property taxes; the American Dream every resident took for granted has been drastically reduced for future generations.  Finally in 2015 action was taken at the ballot box to change the current vision of the township so we are better prepared for an ever-changing future.  This grassroots movement brought out many residents from all walks of life who wanted to work towards building a stronger township economy and community.

This new vision for a robust township needs to focus on building a strong business community by cutting regulations and establishing a solid foundation for economic growth.  These initial steps were incorporated into the first zoning ordinance of this Administration and have been revised and polished by the Hellam Township and York County Planning Commissions to reform regulations such as the square footage requirements and maximum lot coverage’s which have caused businesses to overlook our beautiful municipality. 

Attracting businesses into Hellam Township is a win-win for the township and the Eastern York School District.  Currently local businesses contribute $1.7 million to our school district in the form of property taxes (18 percent of the property tax revenue sent).  Our businesses which do not add a single child into the school system, also cover approximately 590.66 acres of all the 17,729 (or just 3 percent of the total) acres in the township. 

Although there is no way to account for future predictions in business property revenue because the assessment is determined by building size and land value; there remains an additional 550 acres in potential business growth within the township.  It is also worth noting throughout the township’s history, no tax exemptions have been granted for new business development, meaning all new revenue from township business development go straight into the coffers.

Changes in the Agricultural/Rural Zone subdivision requirements have been contentious and we certainly understand differences in opinion. The changes we propose are to benefit our farming and working class families who want to send their children to college, pay off debts or buy a new tractor. These families struggle paying the bills or getting through life’s unexpected obstacles while also paying ever higher taxes on their land. 

The board understands these struggles, as we too experience many of the same scenarios.  It should be mentioned that Hellam Township is one of the few communities who have a high threshold (fifty acre minimum) before a subdivision may occur.  In many cases farmers own many small tracts of land and are unable to subdivide a plot of land for their children to move back home and start a family. With these subdivision changes, a sliding scale has also been preserved for its importance in conserving larger tracts of land.  

For example, in 1978 before a sliding scale was implemented, residents of Laurel Estates created 58 lots on a 315 acre property.  The proposed new formula would create less than 13 lots for a similar 315 acre lot. This scale will ensure no new “Laurel Estates” developments can cut up our farmland and forests or add residential strain on the school district. It is also worth mentioning the Board also established a citizen Transferable Development Rights Ad-Hoc Committee to address much needed reforms to the program to help small business growth and the continual preservation of our farmland.

There are residents who are concerned about changes to the status quo and we certainly understand their apprehension.  Skepticism to change is a healthy and good thing for allowing all potential outcomes to be analyzed before we challenge our fears of the unknown. However, if we continue to bury our heads in the sand of ideology and transform into citizens against virtually everything; our short sighted comfort will allow us to miss the opportunity towards growing a long and prosperous future.

We need to remember our founding fathers for their courageous leadership and vision towards building a land of opportunity for all. This board has taken on the responsibility of working together as pioneers and trailblazers aimed at building a strong and prosperous future for all who live in Hellam Township. Our destiny is never written in stone and we as a community need to embrace optimism and a forward thinking vision which all will benefit. Let us make Hellam Township first for innovation, job growth and leadership once more.  

Will you join us to help restore the American Dream in Hellam Township? 

— The Hellam Township Board of Supervisors: Galen Weibley, chairman; Phil Smith, vice chairman; Dave Miller, supervisor; Riki Potosky, supervisor.