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Suit filed to stop Chambersburg land swap

January 18, 1999|By DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - A Chambersburg couple has filed suit against the borough and Chambersburg Area Development Corporation asking that an exchange of land for a downtown development project be halted.

The suit, which also names Mayor Robert P. Morris and the Borough Council, was filed at the Franklin County Prothonotary's Office on Jan. 8 by Frederick and Kaye Fox, of 743 Floral Ave. The suit seeks to stop the exchange of two tracts of borough land for three owned by the corporation.

The suit claims Chambersburg violated the Pennsylvania Borough Code by not advertising for bids on its two tracts, or advertising them for sale at auction, according to Fox.

"We're really for development of the downtown as much as the council is," Fox said Sunday. A member of Citizens for Representative Government, which opposes the exchange, Fox said he wants compromise.

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Last summer, Fox, a downtown business owner, presented an alternative to the $10 million Village on the Falling Spring project to representatives of the council on behalf of the citizens' group. The plan called for an office building at the corner of Lincoln Way West and Spring Street.

Fox said the group's alternative was for two decks of borough-owned parking topped by three or more floors of office space owned by the development corporation. The plan would move the site south, off of what opponents say was the location of borough founder Benjamin Chamber's 18th century fort.

It would have also eliminated the other office building, located along the Falling Spring and West King Street.

"They dismissed it out of hand," Fox said, adding it would have addressed concerns about downtown parking and the need for office space.

Borough and corporation officials point out, however, that neither party owns the land for the alternative site.

"I'm kind of disappointed. ... The land swap is essential to downtown revitalization," Councilman Thomas L. Newcomer said Sunday of the lawsuit.

The two tracts are along the Conococheague Creek and Falling Spring. The development corporation wants to build office complexes on the properties for two prospective clients.

Between the two sites, the borough would build a park, according to borough officials. The exchange would give the borough the site of a demolished hotel on North Main Street and two other downtown parcels.

An agreement between the borough and corporation was unanimously approved at the council's Dec. 9 meeting. The suit asks the court to declare the agreement invalid.

"We've never been at a point in the history of the downtown that we've had so many positive things going on," Newcomer said. He listed plans for a cultural arts center next to the Capitol Theatre and a proposed rail-trail through the downtown as other revitalization projects.

Newcomer said the Village on the Falling Spring could bring much-needed development and jobs to the area north of Memorial Square.

The Borough Council discussed the lawsuit in an executive session Wednesday, but took no action, according to Newcomer.

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