7/02/2006

Eminent domain is the sticker: York (PA) Dispatch, 6/30/06

The problem for most Yorkers with the county commissioners' plan for a 725-acre park along the Susquehanna River in Lower Windsor Township is not the park concept itself.

It's what the commissioners are willing to do to achieve their aims — take private property and public opposition be damned.

The recent York Dispatch public opinion poll indicated that 73.1 percent of those surveyed disagree with the use of eminent domain to develop Lauxmont Farms into a county park— and that only 12.6 percent favor such action.

Most York countians obviously are not taking issue with the proclaimed "vision" of the two commissioners behind the park plan that is called into question, but most are opposed to their chosen means to reach that end.

The poll results show that the two commissioners, Lori Mitrick and Doug Kilgore, have no clear mandate from county residents in their quest to create the riverlands park.

Of 396 individuals surveyed, 34 percent said they disagreed with the creation of the new park with the assumption that eminent domain would be used to acquire the land, while 17.8 percent were undecided. Meanwhile 48.2 percent said they agreed with the creation of the park.

County Commissioner Steve Chronister has consistently opposed the creation of the park.

The two other commissioners already have successfully seized the Highpoint area that was under private development as part of their park plan. What that seizure will eventually cost the county has yet to be determined.

That taking and the attempted seizure of hundreds of acres of the Kohr family's Lauxmont Farms to make up the majority of the park are what have sparked the most public outcry over the project.

Public meetings have been conducted on the project, with opponents of the plan stifled in their attempts to provide opposing views. The proposal has split the county board of commissioners, with Chronister criticized by his colleagues on the board and by the president of the York Lancaster Heritage Region, Mark Platts, for "interfering" on behalf of the Kohr family.

The issue also has effectively split the county and promises to be a 2007 election issue, as early as the primaries for county commissioner posts. It didn't have to be this way. There's little that's inappropriate with using the "bully pulpit" to sway public opinion on a pet project.

But the county commissioners' tactics in brooking no opposition to their self-proclaimed vision smacks more of sheer bullying, with no attempt at accommodation.

With that attitude, they have taken the park issue out of public debate, where it belongs, and made it a personal fight where no quarter will be given or taken.

That's not why they were elected.


York Dispatch: http://www.yorkdispatch.com