More study needed on proposed Adams County casino and racetrack, commissioners say

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FREEDOM TWP., Pa. – Planning commissioners Wednesday delayed a decision on whether to recommend a change to the township’s zoning ordinance that would allow gambling in areas zoned for mixed-use and clear the way for a casino and racetrack.

The proposed Mason-Dixon Downs on Emmitsburg Road just north of the state line is going through a long approval process on multiple fronts. It needs local approval as well as licensure from the state before any gaming could take place.

On Wednesday, planning commissioners heard from the developers as well as the public on the matter, but ultimately decided they wanted more input from Adams County officials and needed approval from township supervisors to review a hotel and restaurant recently added to the project for the purpose of economic viability.

“The supervisors hadn’t charged us to deal with that, so conceivably we really couldn’t move on anything,” Wayne Belt, the commission’s chairman, said.

That authorization could come as soon as next week, Belt said.

In the meantime, residents and community members sounded off to the commission about benefits of the project.

“We’re not expanding any industries around here; actually our county is known for pushing it away,” Scott Snyder, who lives near the project site and supports the proposal, said. “We’ve lost some large industries, and with that, it’s pushing a lot of people in the area out.”

Others are concerned about unanswered questions, especially studies that have not been completed, including one on economic impact.

“I keep saying Gettysburg isn’t for sale, so many places in Pennsylvania for a casino,” Elaine McKnight, a Gettysburg-area resident against the proposal, said. “Gettysburg is a brand and it’s not just the borough, it’s the entire area around here.”

The developers countered, saying similar revenue figures and economic benefits from facilities across the state could be expected for Mason-Dixon Downs.

“[It’s] great for Adams County, jobs, tax dollars, economic growth,” Dave LeVan, the owner of Battlefield Harley-Davidson who is spearheading the proposal, said. “To me, it’s a no-brainer.”