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Opponents speak out about bypass proposalabout bypass proposal

May 06, 2003|by DON AINES

chambersburg@herald-mail.com

Chambersburg, Pa. - The Washington Township Supervisors Monday night heard a barrage of criticism from opponents of a plan to acquire a 78-acre farm for a municipal services complex and as part of a planned bypass of Pa. 16.

Before the meeting started, several residents were outside the municipal building with signs reading "Farm Crops Not Houses" and "Save Our Open Space." Inside, there were several heated exchanges between supervisors and opponents of the plan.

"I haven't talked to one person who is for this bypass to nowhere," resident Kerry Bonner said of the proposed Washington Township Boulevard, which would link Old Forge and Country Club roads north of Pa. 16. Another part of the plan would extend North Welty Road north from Pa. 16 and the boulevard.

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The plan would include the Shank Farm north of Pa. 16, which is owned by Barry G. and Annie R. Pifer of Germantown, Md. The township plans to acquire some or all of the property by eminent domain or negotiations for the extension of North Welty Road and the municipal complex, which would include the township and municipal authority offices, the police department and an emergency services building.

The plan also calls for recreational facilities and a community center.

"Why don't you put it on a vote?" Bonner said. "Let the people decide what to do, not the five clowns up there," he said, referring to the supervisors.

Township attorney John Lisko said he was told by Franklin County's attorney that nonbinding issues are not permitted on the ballot. "It's the county's decision as to what goes on the ballot," he said.

"We can't buy property and turn it around to sell to anyone," Paul Benchoff, chairman of the board of supervisors, said in regard to allegations by some that the township wanted to resell the farm for development.

The Pifers, who were not at the meeting, indicated last month that they will fight the township's efforts to acquire the land.

"The plan has been in effect for quite a while," Supervisor Art Cordell said of the relief route. Benchoff said the board decided to begin the legal process to acquire the land because interest rates on bonds are at a 40-year low.

The board later this month will consider approval of a $6 million bond issue to finance the first phase of the project.

Several people asked why other locations for the municipal complex were not considered, such as the Wharf Road Industrial Park. Benchoff said the Shank Farm is close to the population center of the township and land at the industrial park would cost too much.

In April, Benchoff noted that traffic along Pa. 16 has tripled since 1966. Several people at the meeting said development was driving the traffic problem and that developing the land would worsen the situation.

"How many of the people want this town to be a metropolis?" resident Richard Happel asked.

Benchoff said there was nothing the township could do to prevent other farmers from selling their land to developers. "We cannot compel somebody to stay in business if they're losing money," he said.

"I'd like to take a look at this and see if there's any negotiating that can be done," Supervisor Richard Eigenbrode said. He said the township may be looking at acquiring more land than it needs.

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