LANCASTER, Pa. (WHTM) — Lester Oberholtzer’s Manheim Township farm has been in his family for generations.
They’re Mennonites — so Oberholtzer didn’t want to show his face on camera.
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“It’s the best agricultural land in the world. Not just in this country, in the world. Once it’s gone, it’s gone forever,” said Oberholtzer, a farmer from Manheim Township.
He has seen the area transform from rich farmland to urban development, and he shares the concern of many township residents.
“We just want to be sure that we’re protecting the character of our township and that any future development is really what people think it should be,” said Carol Gifford, Democratic incumbent for Manheim Township Commissioner.
Growth – in particular, how to manage it – is the biggest issue in tomorrow’s election. Manheim Township voters will decide whether Democrats retain control of the Board of Commissioners or return to Republican hands.
“I don’t think anyone is looking to get rid of existing farmland. We want to protect it. In the past, this has always been a priority. The issue is the areas that are currently being planned that have been zoned in a certain way for development. Is this the zoning we want to keep? John Bear, Republican candidate for Mannheim Township Commissioner, said.
Democrats and Republicans have more in common than they would like to admit. Both want to repurpose existing buildings and agree that revamping a 2010 development plan is the way forward. They basically want to start with a clean slate.
“A lot of people came before us and did nothing. They campaign on it, don’t change the planning, don’t change the laws, and nothing happens,” Bear added.
While Democrats say the board has had decades to deliver on its promises.
“They had their time to fix it and nothing happened. Instead, what we’re seeing are new homes popping up everywhere and commercial development,” Gifford said.