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Chambersburg Council to vote by telephone

July 27, 2000

Chambersburg Council to vote by telephone



By DON AINES / Staff Writer, Chambersburg


CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - Some Chambersburg Borough Council members may cast their votes by telephone next month when a pivotal vote is scheduled on the King's Grant senior citizen apartment complex.

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The council has been evenly split on the 54-unit, $5 million project at the corner of Black Avenue and Queen Street for months, with Mayor Robert Morris having to cast tie-breaking votes.

The next vote is scheduled for Wednesday, Aug. 9, but two councilmen who oppose the project, Thomas Newcomer and Carl Helman, said they will be out of town.

"If all council wants to participate in a meeting ... they can do so whether physically present or not," Borough Attorney Thomas Finucane said at Wednesday night's council meeting. He said teleconference voting is permissible under Pennsylvania law.

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"I don't want to set that precedent," Helman said. He noted a special meeting had been scheduled earlier in the month on the development, but that meeting was canceled by Council President Bernard Washabaugh because Morris was not going to be able to attend.

Helman offered a motion to hold the King's Grant vote on Wednesday, Aug. 2, but Councilman Robert Wareham objected because he and at least one other King's Grant supporter won't be able to attend that meeting.

"Because you're uncomfortable with that, you're going to stick it on someone else?" Wareham asked of the teleconference voting.

Helman's motion to move up the date of the vote, seconded by Newcomer, failed to pass on a 4-4 vote. Morris, who has voted in favor of King's Grant in the past, was not at Wednesday's meeting to attempt to break the tie.

Finucane suggested the council vote on whether to permit teleconference voting at the Aug. 9 meeting. That motion was approved unanimously.

The split over King's Grant is not over the need for more affordable housing for seniors in Chambersburg, but its location. The council has voted to lease the property to the developers, but the site is on a borough-owned public parking lot.

At meetings earlier this year, several downtown business owners complained the project would eliminate parking spaces near their businesses. Owners of rental properties have complained the borough is subsidizing an apartment complex that will be in competition with them.

The council has to vote on the King's Grant site development plan before Aug. 15. That's the date the developers must begin construction, or lose state tax credits granted earlier by the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency.

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