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Residents wary of proposed maintenance code

January 29, 1998|By LISA GRAYBEAL, Chambersburg

Residents wary of proposed maintenance code

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - Some property owners in Chambersburg are leery of a maintenance code proposed by Borough Council that would set the standard for regulating safety, sanitation and appearance of the interior and exterior of properties.

More than 50 local property and business owners and renters showed up for a public hearing at Wednesday night's Council meeting asking a lot of questions and speaking mostly against the Building Officials & Code Administrators (BOCA) National Property Maintenance Code.

If implemented, the new code would be used to supplement the borough's existing ones that regulate the conditions and maintenance of all property, buildings and structures, said Borough Manager Eric Oyer.

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Regulations would include establishing minimum standards for light, ventilation and occupancy limitations, plumbing facilities, fixture, mechanical and electrical requirements, and fire safety.

It also outlines fines and penalties for violations of the code.

The property maintenance code, used in Shippensburg, Pa., and Carlisle, Pa., would be enforced by the borough's housing code enforcement officer.

Chambersburg resident Law-rence Lahr questioned the wording of the maintenance code outlined in a 34-page booklet, saying it's too subjective.

Wording like "keep in nice order" or "good repair" leaves it open to casual, not uniform, enforcement, Lahr said.

Others are worried the new property code is unrealistic and will put an unnecessary burden on residents and property owners of modest incomes.

The few that spoke in favor of the new code said it's necessary to preserve downtown Chambersburg and attract more businesses to the area.

"We all remember back when the community and downtown was a much better place to live ... Let's return to those days," said John Redding Jr., a council member and property owner.

Some council members agreed the new code would act as a tool to eliminate problems.

"It will be used to help eliminate and prevent future blight ... We have properties and areas that need attention and we need tools to deal with existing problems," said William McLaughlin, council member.

Council did not vote Wednesday night.

Members will research the questions brought up at the meeting and continue discussing the new code during a work session Feb. 18.

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