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Residents in Waynesboro upset over apartment plans

May 09, 2003|by RICHARD BELISLE

waynesboro@herald-mail.com

WAYNESBORO, Pa. - Residents in the Sunset Avenue neighborhood, a quiet stretch of orderly 1950s-era homes, are circulating a petition expressing their opposition to a multi-unit low- to moderate-income apartment complex planned for their area.

Led by Angela Mason, 52, of 945 Sunset Ave., the group has hired an attorney to represent its interest, said Allen Porter, 83, of 932 Sunset Ave. Porter, a borough councilman, said he won't vote on the issue when it comes before the council.

Sunset Avenue is on the southwest fringe of the borough off Fairview Avenue.

Tom Mills, 30, whose house is behind Mason's at 960 Park St., said he and his neighbors are concerned about several issues, including increased traffic the complex will bring and its impact on schools.

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Mason said she fears property values will decline.

Bonnie Zehler, executive director of the Franklin County Housing Authority, which is building the four-building complex, said 60 percent of its tenants will have incomes below the median for the county.

Eligibility limits the annual income of a family of four to $28,000, Zehler said. Examples could include a police officer, a clerical worker, a single parent or a family with a stay-at-home parent, she said. "A lot of working people in Franklin County can qualify."

A three-bedroom apartment will rent for $395 a month including utilities. A two-bedroom unit will rent for $360. "That's way below fair market value," Zehler said. Rents in private apartments in the Waynesboro area run from $469 for a two-bedroom unit to $646 for three bedrooms, including utilities, she said.

The four buildings will house five or six apartments, depending on their configuration. Two units will be on one floor and be handicapped accessible, she said.

A new road running 600 feet west of Sunset Avenue to be called Tenth Street will be built to serve the complex. It will end in a cul-de-sac. The borough will take over the road once it's complete, Borough Manager Lloyd Hamberger said.

The project will cost $2.6 million, Zehler said, and construction is expected to begin this fall.

The borough planning commission recommended the Borough Council approve the project.

The housing authority is seeking a special exception from the borough's Zoning Hearing Board to build a community building to serve the tenants in the new complex. The board will take up the request May 22 at 7:30 p.m. in the Borough Hall.

The residents said they will present their petition to the board at that time.

Waynesboro has the lowest average income in Franklin County Hamberger said. "That's part of the reason we have the largest concentration of low-income and elderly housing in the southern part of the county," he said.

The housing authority owns the nearby, 82-unit Mount Vernon Terrace on Fairview Avenue.

The authority owns eight acres adjoining Mount Vernon Terrace, Zehler said. The new complex will take three acres, leaving five for further development. Whether more units will be built "remains to be seen," she said.

Meanwhile, neighbors are organizing to oppose the one that's already on the way.

Amy Royer, 86, has been living in her house at 930 Sunset Ave. for 19 years.

One building will be about 100 feet from her back porch, a vantage point that produces peaceful scenes of grazing deer and farmers working the field that joins her property, she said.

"I never expected this," Royer said. "I'm very much upset over it."

Zehler said the authority will plant a buffer between its property and Royer's. "We want to be good neighbors," she said.

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