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Officials back at Gabler proposal in Chambersburg

The Borough Council voted to continue negotiations with a local developer over the size of its recreational acreage.

The Borough Council voted to continue negotiations with a local developer over the size of its recreational acreage.

December 19, 2002|by STACEY DANZUSO

chambersburg@herald-mail.com

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - Hoping to secure more land for future recreation needs, the Chambersburg Borough Council voted to continue negotiations with a local developer rather than accept its offer.

Council considered a proposal Tuesday to accept 5 acres from GS & G, the developer of the Gabler Tract in the north end of the borough, as well as a .7 of an acre parcel dubbed "the stomach."

The borough and the developers began negotiations earlier this year in an effort to create a larger contiguous recreation area on the remaining tract. Under the current ordinance, the borough would be subject to receiving small and sometimes useless parcels from the developer as it slowly builds out the land with residential housing and commercial businesses.

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Council members were divided on whether 5 acres is enough, since the Chambersburg Recreation Board said it would need 8 acres to create a neighborhood park with parking.

"The north end of town has no recreation (other than) at Faust Junior High School and Mary B. Sharpe Elementary. I am not pleased with 5 acres," Councilman Allen Coffman said.

Others wondered how the borough could afford to build a new park, whether it be 5 or 10 acres.

"I'm still wondering where the money is coming from to develop the park," Council President Bill McLaughlin said. "We don't want to end up with an embarrassment of riches and only be able to cut grass out there.

"We do not need, nor do we have support for, a large recreation area. I think 5 acres is more than what the neighborhood can handle," McLaughlin said.

"Personally I am comfortable negotiating the 5-acre arrangement with the Gablers," Councilman Carl Helman said.

But he later made the motion to rework the proposal to include a 6-acre dedication and for the borough and the developer to jointly dispose of the "stomach," possibly to the 19 adjacent property owners.

The motion passed on a 6-4 vote, with Helman, and Council members John Redding, Jr., Ruth Harbaugh, Bob Wareham, Sharon Bigler and Allen Frantz supporting it.

Coffman, McLaughlin and councilmen Scott Thomas and Ken Gill opposed the motion.

The developer's attorney warned the borough risked any deal by approving the motion.

"My clients are not willing to dedicate or gift extra acreage to you," Steve Fishman said. "We are not going to go back and re-negotiate it from scratch. Don't be under any illusion we're in agreement."

As part of the motion, the council postponed a hearing on proposed changes to the land development ordinance that would double the recreation land requirements for developers. The hearing is now scheduled for Feb. 25.

Under the current ordinance, GS & G is required to turn over 1.6 acres for recreation, but the new ordinance would up that to at least 3.2 acres and as much as 15 acres depending on how the remainder of the tract is developed, Borough Manager Eric Oyer said.

"By making the process go on, my client might just decide to go with the new ordinance," Fishman said.

That possibility did not deter some council members.

"I don't have any problem sitting back and holding out. We're not going to lose anything," Redding said.

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