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Borough Council rejects land swap plan

July 15, 1998|By DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - An alternative to a proposed land exchange between Chambersburg and the Chambersburg Area Development Corporation drew no support Wednesday night from the Borough Council.

In April, the council voted to support the concept of an exchange with the corporation. The proposal calls for the borough to trade two sites near the confluence of the Conococheague Creek and Falling Spring for downtown properties owned by the nonprofit development group.

In June, Citizens for Representative Government, a group opposing the exchange, presented its concept, a two-tiered parking area to be developed by the borough, topped by up to three stories of office space.

"We took a look at the plan and we feel it won't work," said David Sciamanna, executive director of the corporation. He said his group has already spent more than $750,000 on its project and buying and demolishing additional buildings under the citizens' group's plan would cost $400,00 more.

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Fred Fox, a member of the citizens' group, said its plan addresses issues of green space, development and parking in the area along the creek.

For the past several months, some borough residents have opposed the exchange, which will require the corporation to develop the sites in hopes of bringing about $7 million in private and public development and 100 or more jobs to the downtown.

The recently passed federal highway bill includes $2 million for public improvements in the area, bounded by North Main and King Streets, Lincoln Way West and the creek, according to Borough Manager Eric Oyer. The rest of the development would come from the private sector.

Opponents contend the borough should not give away part of a small park on land once owned by the borough's founder, Benjamin Chambers.

"What's historic about it other than Ben Chambers lived there?" Council President Bernard Washabaugh asked. He said the park is not used by residents "because they're afraid to go there."

Washabaugh said development of the streamside, part of which is a municipal parking lot, would attract more people.

The borough has modified the plan over the past few months, moving one of the building sites farther south to create more park space in between. The council has also said it wants a veterans memorial walkway along the stream.

"We've got a parking lot whose sole purpose at night is a place of public urination," Councilman William McLaughlin of the site in its existing state.

The development corporation is negotiating with potential tenants for the two sites, according to Oyer. He said the land swap agreement between the borough and corporation could be reached within two months.

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