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Council votes to close Waynesboro square

August 25, 1998|By RICHARD F. BELISLE, Waynesboro

WAYNESBORO, Pa. - Waynesboro Mayor Louis Barlup on Monday night cast a tie-breaking vote in favor of making changes in the town's historical Center Square.

Barlup's vote, cast during a special council meeting on the square issue, came after three council members voted to make the changes, and three voted to keep the square as it is.

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Of the more than 60 residents who attended the meeting, 13 asked the council to leave the square as it is. None spoke in favor of changing it.

The issue was whether to leave the square open or close it to traffic by moving the sidewalks up to the traffic corridor.

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Closing the square to traffic also will eliminate more than a dozen angled parking spaces, a move opposed by merchants whose businesses they serve.

The square has been at the center of attention since last year when Pennsylvania Department of Transportation engineers proposed modernizing the antiquated system of signals that control traffic along Main Street. The lights create confusion among motorists navigating the square.

Tied to Monday's vote is more than $900,000 in federal funds to pay for synchronizing the lights through town. The money would come regardless of how the vote turned out as long as a decision on the square is made by this fall.

The vote is only a recommendation to PennDOT since Main Street, including the square, is a state highway.

Council members voting to close the square were Vicki Huff, Allen Porter and Council President Richard Starliper.

They said they wanted a safer environment for traffic and pedestrians and hoped to beautify the downtown area with walkways and plantings.

One casualty of a closed square would be the town's Christmas tree. With sidewalks moved in, there won't be room to place it in its traditional spot in the middle of the square.

Councilmen Charles McCammon, Ardie Winters and Darrell Potts voted to leave the square as it is. Potts said closing it would mar its historical significance and would make it harder for large vehicles to negotiate turns, he said.

Recent traffic surveys showed that the most dangerous intersection in the borough is at Third and South Potomac streets, Potts said.

"The square is third on the list. In my opinion, I believe if the square is closed, it won't be that much safer," he said.

He echoed remarks from speakers from the audience who worried that a closed-in square with wide promenades would create a hangout for undesirables.

Several business owners whose establishments front the square said they would lose business if parking spaces are eliminated.

William Hoos, owner of Waynesboro Optical, said he would have to move his business if the spaces were eliminated.

William Kent approached the council in his wheelchair. "People like myself depend on handicapped parking spaces. The one you have at the square is not in compliance (with the Americans with Disabilities Act), but we do use it all the time."

Barlup said his tie-breaking vote was the most difficult of the few he's cast in his 10 years as mayor.

"Usually the council votes 6-0," he said.

The mayor votes only to break ties.

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