Don't mess with Gretna lake
It's not being alarmist to say Mount Gretna, the quaint Victorian community nestled in the rolling hills along the Lebanon/Lancaster border, is under siege from development.
Concerned citizens of the community -- home to a summer playhouse, outdoor tabernacle, lake and beach, hiking/biking in nearby state game lands and nature preserve, playgrounds and eateries -- already have pushed back against an expansive housing proposal that would have virtually decimated a lush, wooded area that abuts the village.
The developer eventually opted for far fewer homes, and the plan is pending.
Now the same developer -- owned by a family who has deep roots in Gretna -- is seeking a zoning change that would allow it to continue its aggressive home-building plan.
Specifically, the developer wants to zone property in and around the lake and beach site -- which it owns and operates -- for residential use, instead of "Conservation." The change would clear the way for several single family homes.
But at a high cost to the community.
Gone, presumably, would be public swimming at the lake that has been attracting locals, tourists and other visitors for 120 years.
Gone would be the annual craft show -- which the developer operates -- on the lower end of Soldier's Field. Soldier's Field dates back to the Spanish-American War, and the property also is owned by the developer.
Gone would be the vast open space at the lake, which adds immeasurably to the charm of Gretna.
Quaint cottages, live theater, Jigger Shop, open spaces and lake -- all attract visitors each summer and fall from far and wide. This is particularly true each August, when Mount Gretna hosts the venerable Outdoor Art Show, which attracts thousands of people over a two-day period.
The art show would not be in jeopardy, if the developer succeeds in getting the zoning it wants.
But what about the lake? Will people tend to view the lake in the same terms, if it sits among several huge -- and expensive -- homes?
Families choose to spend their time -- and money -- in Mount Gretna because of its wholesome atmosphere. They likely would take their dollars elsewhere if the character of the area changes dramatically.
The economic impact, not only to Gretna but to the surrounding area, cannot be overstated.
In deciding whether to rezone property, municipal officials not only must consider the proposal's impact on the property owner, but on the community.
If the matter were to be put up to a vote, we're quite sure the community would want the lake property zoning to remain as is.
The land in question is privately owned, and private-property rights are to be respected. But the owner also should recognize that the issue isn't just about property. It's about a way of life -- a way of life that is threatened.
We ask the developer to abandon plans to rezone the property at Conewago Lake. In doing so, it will win the praise, not enmity, of the entire Gretna community and her many visitors.
Indeed, what a wonderful legacy it would be for the family behind the development company to preserve the lake and beach -- as is -- for generations to come.
This isn't just about property. It's about a way of life -- a way of life that's being threatened.