Zoning board OKs housing request in Waynesboro

May 23, 2003|by RICHARD BELISLE

WAYNESBORO, Pa. - The Waynesboro Zoning Appeals Board on Thursday granted a special exception that gives the Franklin County Housing Authority permission to build a community center for Valley Townhouses, a 22-unit public housing complex the authority already is cleared to build.

More than 30 residents from the Sunset Avenue area - next to where the complex will be built - attended the hearing to protest the plan.

Board Chairman Ted Sottong said the vote was one of the toughest the members had to make "because it affects lives." The community center met the requirements for a special exception, he said.


Sottong said a large part of the discussion raised at the hearing from residents centered on problems surrounding low-income public housing.

"It may or may not be valid, but that is not the issue here," he said.

The residents submitted a report they said was provided by the Waynesboro Police Department that showed calls officers responded to in some of the borough's five existing public housing complexes.

They included two incidents of rape, five of sexual assault, and the offenses of criminal mischief, disorderly conduct, domestic problems, juvenile offenses and harassment.

Tom Mills, 30, of 960 Park St., asked how residents in the neighborhood could be assured of their safety if the complex is built.

Angela Mason of 945 Sunset Ave., another leader of the citizens group, said the only emergency calls now in the neighborhood "are one ambulance call a year."

Borough Councilman Clint Barkdoll questioned the accuracy of the marketing study done by the housing authority to justify building the $2.6 million project since it included surveys of residents already living in public housing units in the borough.

"It's flawed methodology," Barkdoll said. "It's like surveying casinos to see if there is a gambling problem."

Council President Douglas Tengler questioned the need for more public housing in the borough. "Waynesboro and Chambersburg seem to get more than any other municipality in the county. Can't you put some in Antrim or Washington townships?" he asked housing authority officials.

Councilman Allen Porter, who lives on Sunset Avenue near the proposed site of the complex, said after the hearing that "people in the area are upset that they have to accept this type of project in an otherwise quiet community."

Bonnie Zehler, housing authority executive director, said construction will begin this fall.

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