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Speak now or forever …

Jo Ann Spieth-Saylor, Staff Writer

In about three weeks, thousands of people will come to a small German town on the eastern edge of Harrison County to learn about some of its rich agricultural heritage. While in Lanesville, the visitors will have an opportunity to talk with many wonderful people who call the small town in Franklin Township home, and they will get a glimpse of what is known as “Purple Pride.”
But with such an invitation to visit a community and to experience the great hospitality, some people are going to want to become part of that.
Therein lies the dilemma the residents of Franklin Township are facing: Their community is growing. There’s no indication the growth is ready to slow down. In fact, that township is one of the fastest growing ones in the county.
And in the last couple of years, there have been proposals to develop the Lanesville interchange on Interstate 64. But each time someone has presented a plan, whether it’s for single-family homes, multi-family dwellings or commercial businesses, dozens of residents have shown up at the Harrison County Advisory Plan Commission meetings to oppose the developers’ intentions.
The opponents have a list of reasons: the roads there are narrow and in poor shape; the Lanesville Community School Corp. can’t handle many more students; the residents fear their drinking water might become contaminated from wastewater run-off, and, my personal “favorite,” they don’t want anyone else living near them — after all, many of them moved from the city to Franklin Township to get away from people and the noise.
In trying to do what’s best for everybody, the county plan commission hired a consulting firm to study a 10-square-mile radius of the interchange and recommend how the area should best be used. Without more bite to its own comprehensive plan, the plan commission doesn’t have much legal ground to stand on when denying most requests for development in the area.
The public was invited to a meeting Thursday night at Lanesville Junior-Senior High School to give input to representatives of Birch Trautwein & Mims, the consulting firm selected to do the study. About 150 people turned, but instead of offering suggestions how they would like to see the area developed, possibilities they can live with, the majority of the speakers basically reiterated that they don’t want to see anything happen there.
Near the conclusion of the 90-minute meeting, Lanesville native Donald J. Hussung said something that made sense: If those residents whose families settled in the area many, many years ago had stopped development 50 years ago, probably half the people attending the meeting wouldn’t be Lanesville residents. They would have had to find some other rural community to call home.
The way we see it, the area will be developed, and probably sooner than anyone would like. Those who live in that 10-square-mile area can continue to say they don’t want anything to be built there and wake up one day to new homes and businesses, or they can offer constructive suggestions about what they’d like to see there. They need to take advantage of the opportunity they’ve been given to have input in what their community will become.