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Suit filed to stop King's Grant

December 20, 1999|By DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - A proposed $5 million senior citizens' apartment complex in downtown Chambersburg is being challenged in Franklin County Court by a borough property owner.

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Tanya K. Nitterhouse, the owner of Sunnyhill Properties Inc., 550 Cleveland Ave., is asking the court to nullify a lease agreement between the borough and King's Grant Associates Limited Partnership, of Wilmington, Del. The agreement would allow the construction of the 52-unit apartment complex on a borough-owned parking lot at the intersection of Black Avenue and West Queen Street.

The suit names Mayor Robert Morris, the Borough Council and King's Grant Associates as defendants, according to court records. The lease approval was the subject of two votes by the council: One on Wednesday, Nov. 10 and another at a special meeting on Sunday, Nov. 14.

On Nov. 10, the council voted 5 to 1 in favor of granting the 60-year lease. Three council members, however, had walked out in protest of the vote being taken before a new councilman, Scott Thomas, was sworn into office.

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At the Nov. 14 meeting the council split 5 to 5 on the lease and Morris cast the tie-breaker. After that vote Morris said he voted in favor of the agreement because of possible litigation by Leon Weiner & Associates, of Wilmington, Del., which proposed and is backing the project.

Both meetings attracted large numbers of residents, most of whom spoke out against the project, including Nitterhouse.

Nitterhouse's suit said the lease constitutes a subdivision under the borough's Subdivision and Land Development Ordinance. The suit said the borough violated the ordinance in that it "did not first submit a subdivision plan for the property."

The suit stated Nitterhouse owns properties "in the immediate vicinity of the Property, which will be adversely impacted" by the approval of the lease. Those include the Liberty Court Apartments on Liberty Street and half a dozen properties on South Main Street.

The suit said the properties will decrease in value "at least in part from the loss of public parking" that will result from construction of King's Grant.

Nitterhouse could not be reached for comment Sunday.

The suit, dated Dec. 10, was the subject of a closed executive session at last Wednesday's council meeting, according to Councilman Allen B. Coffman.

"I'm just disappointed that it couldn't be left to rest and let the project proceed," said Coffman, who voted to approve the lease. He said it was one of several projects the Borough Council has backed in an effort to bring more people, business and jobs to the downtown.

"It certainly doesn't make any sense for the borough to give up 75 parking spaces in what is probably the most used parking lot in the borough," said Councilman Thomas L. Newcomer, who voted against the lease agreement. The chairman of the borough's Downtown Parking Committee said the cost of new spaces can be as much as $10,000 apiece.

Newcomer said the threat cited by Morris of a lawsuit by Leon Weiner & Associates was overblown.

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