To the Editor:
I was against zoning for an outlet center in Berkshire Township. I've changed my opinion and now support the Simon/Tanger Outlet Center. I'm asking Berkshire residents to vote "yes" on the referendum on our November ballot.
Why the change of heart? The proposed use of this land falls in line with Berkshire's 2008 land-use plan. The question becomes not if, but when and who?
If we vote "no," annexing the land to Sunbury and building a mall anyway is surprisingly simple. Keep the development within Berkshire Township so we control and benefit from it. Build with the quality and commitment we deserve -- focused and planned, with an eye toward future road and traffic needs, too.
I dislike change as much as anyone, but I believe this is the right step. Simon/Tanger have committed to doubling what our zoning code requires for the number of trees to be planted; are creating landscaping along South Galena Road to separate their development from residential properties; and are working with residents and authorities to make this project successful.
Our schools benefit, too. Their tax bases rely too heavily on property owners like me. As I understand, the outlet facility will generate nearly $2 million in property taxes alone, most going to our schools. The land generates about $1,000 now.
I have no hidden agenda -- no "dog in this hunt."
Here's the most important point: A "no" vote does not mean there will not be an outlet mall -- it means Berkshire will end up with no say or benefits when the land is annexed to Sunbury or possibly Columbus and the mall is built anyway. Is that what we want and deserve? I think not, and urge a "yes" vote.