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New building code accepted

February 26, 1998|By DON AINES

New building code accepted

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - Over the objections of a number of property owners, the Chambersburg Borough Council voted unanimously Wednesday night to approve a new building maintenance code.

The Building Officials and Code Administrators code will go into effect on April 1 despite requests from property owners that the council delay action for six months or put it to a referendum.

"I have no problem with a six-month moratorium if I thought it would amount to anything," Councilman William McLaughlin said.

Instead, he said a delay would mean "six months more of greater deterioration."

About 100 people attended the meeting. Glen Dice, 285 E. Queen St., who owns several downtown properties, called the BOCA code "a targeting tool to achieve negative goals." He said he would not object to the new code if he thought it would be applied equally to all property owners.

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The property maintenance code replaces a 1974 housing code. Assistant Borough Solicitor Welton Fischer said much of the old code was based on an earlier BOCA code and the city already uses BOCA's fire, plumbing and electrical codes.

Fischer said the new code would allow the borough to enforce building violations beyond housing to include vacant homes and commercial properties. The present code applies only to occupied housing.

Richard Vandervort, of 101 W. King St., said adopting the code would put him in violation immediately because the ceilings of an 1862 house he is renovating are too low.

"I think we've shown a disposition to be reasonable" about enforcement, Fischer said. He added, however, the code does not include a grandfather provision for buildings in violation of the code prior to its enactment.

The BOCA codes are used by municipalities across the nation, but some of the property owners said they could be used for selective enforcement.

"Labor and Industry came in here targeting certain properties" for violations, said Ann Kline Rotz, of 49 Lincoln Way West, after the meeting. She said 70 properties had to be remodeled and several owners went bankrupt after the state's Department of Labor and Industry conducted inspections about two years ago.

She said those inspections, the BOCA code and a plan for the borough to swap land near the Falling Spring for two properties owned by the Chambersburg Area Development Corporation "are all part of the same package."

The proposed swap with the development corporation is part of a downtown revitalization plan for the borough. It would open up land along the creek for commercial development.

Councilman Carl Helman said there was no hidden agenda in the plan. "The situation we have now I'd describe as managed deterioration," he said of conditions in some parts of town.

Councilman John Redding said the code was the best way "to assure the health, safety and welfare of all the residents of Chambersburg."

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