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Falling Spring project takes step backward

April 06, 2000|By DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - The $10 million Village on the Falling Spring project is back to square one with the loss of a major potential tenant and a decision by the Chambersburg Borough Council not to appeal a court ruling that reverses a 1998 land swap with the Chambersburg Area Development Corp.

At Wednesday's executive session, the council directed the borough to buy back two plots of land along the Conococheague Creek it exchanged for three downtown lots once owned by the development corporation. The corporation had planned to build an office complex on one lot to lease to ABC Advisors Inc. The other lot was to be sold to a Chambersburg architectural firm.

Borough Manager Eric Oyer said ABC Advisors President William Gindlesperger "made the decision this week to drop out."

Oyer said the corporation has tentatively agreed to allow the borough to buy back the two lots at their appraised value of $31,900. He said the corporation would get back three lots it gave the borough and repay $30,000 the borough paid it to cover demolition costs at the site of the former Madden Hotel on North Main Street.

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Oyer said once the borough gets its two lots back, they will be offered for sale by sealed bids. Oyer said the borough could attach strings requiring the properties, situated in a small downtown park, to be developed by any buyers.

The decision came after the council decided recently not to appeal a Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court ruling that the swap was actually a "complex business development package" involving land, an exchange of money, public improvements around the two lots and regulatory cooperation by the borough. The Jan. 19 ruling reversed a decision by a Court of Common Pleas judge in Franklin County that the exchange was legal.

The suit opposing the deal was filed last year by Frederick A. and Kaye A. Fox of Chambersburg, according to court records.

Oyer said the borough has been approved for $2 million in federal funding and had matched that with $500,000 for walkways, parking and other improvements around the lots. The borough is seeking $2.5 million more in federal and state funding for improvements, he said.

If that money isn't approved, he said the public improvements will have to be scaled back. Oyer said the borough has spent about $250,000 on engineering and environmental studies for the site.

The project had been opposed by some borough residents and veterans groups who want the land developed as a memorial to war veterans and the borough's founders.

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