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Chambersburg mayor breaks tie in King's Grant vote

August 09, 2000

Chambersburg mayor breaks tie in King's Grant vote



By DON AINES / Staff Writer, Chambersburg


CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - Chambersburg Mayor Robert Morris was called on Wednesday night to cast another tie-breaking vote over the proposed King's Grant senior citizen apartment complex.

"It would be much better to have it in one of the more desolate parking lots in the borough," Morris said before voting in favor of a rider to the lease for the $6 million project. "Unfortunately, litigation is a problem," he said.

The council has been split evenly since last year over the 52-unit housing complex, which is to be located on a borough-owned parking lot at the corner of Queen Street and Black Avenue. In November, Morris cast a tie-breaker to approve a 60-year lease for the property with a New Jersey developer, Leon Weiner & Associates.

At the time, Morris cited the possibility of litigation by the developer if the lease was not approved.

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On Wednesday, council members Thomas Newcomer, Carl Helman, Sharon Bigler, Scott Thomas and Harold Kennedy voted against the rider, which enlarges the leased area to include all of what is known as the Shoppers' Parking Lot.

Helman, on vacation in Myrtle Beach, S.C., cast his vote by telephone.

Council President Bernard Washabaugh and councilmen William McLaughlin, Allen Coffman, John Redding and Robert Wareham voted for the rider. Under its terms, King's Grant will maintain the entire parking lot, with about 70 parking spaces open to the public between 5 a.m. and midnight, according to Borough Attorney Thomas Finucane.

Newcomer said the borough agreed to give the developer $150,000 in Community Development Block Grant funds "free of charge that could be spent to help the less fortunate and sustain numerous non-profit entities that work every day in the borough just to survive."

The project will cost the borough parking meter revenue and deter businesses from locating downtown because of the loss of parking, according to Newcomer. He said it would cost about $550,000 to replace the 70 parking spaces that will be lost.

Newcomer said King's Grant should be built in a little-used unmetered borough parking lot about a block away.

Bigler said the borough council had been "intimidated" by the threat of litigation from Leon Weiner & Associates. Thomas said the developer's actions "remind me of the Mafia."

While Morris said potential litigation was a factor in his vote, the borough and developer had previously been sued in Franklin County Court by Tanya Nitterhouse, who owns several downtown properties. Leon Weiner and Associates recently countersued Nitterhouse.

"What's been said tonight is an injustice to the developer," Washabaugh said. He cited the company's Orchard Run development, another low-to-moderate income housing complex which he said has been trouble-free.

"Who wants to live in some of the places downtown?" Washabaugh asked, calling some "rat-infested." He said King's Grant will bring decent housing downtown and benefit shops and restaurants.

The lease rider vote was followed by another 5-5 vote on the project's land development plan, with Morris breaking the tie. Construction on the project has to begin by Tuesday, Aug. 15, or Leon Weiner & Associates faces the loss of tax credits from the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency.

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