Council members call study inaccurate

June 14, 2003|by RICHARD BELISLE

Two Waynesboro councilmen said this week a feasibility study supporting the need for a 22-unit public housing project near Wayne Gardens is so filled with inaccuracies they have asked the state agency financing the project to suspend its funding.

In their letter dated Thursday to William Bostic, executive director of the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency in Harrisburg, Borough Council President Douglas Tengler and Councilman Clint Barkdoll said they could not "in good conscience" endorse the project.

The agency has approved the funding.

Tengler said he obtained a copy of the study May 29 through the Pennsylvania Right to Know Act.

Franklin County Housing Authority Executive Director Bonnie Zehler said Friday she had offered to discuss the study with Tengler and to have Mark Shonberg, a partner with Barone, Murtha, Shonberg & White, a Pittsburgh consulting firm and author of the study, discuss it with Tengler.


"We tried to meet with them to answer their questions," Zehler said. "We now question whether there will be a fair process."

Zehler said the Housing Authority received a letter from Borough Manager Lloyd Hamberger on May 28 requesting a copy of the study.

"We sent it to them on June 6," Zehler said.

The borough's stamp noting the receipt of the study was dated June 9.

Zehler declined to discuss the claims of inaccuracies in the letter to Bostic.

Shonberg deferred questions to Zehler on Friday.

In the letter, Tengler and Barkdoll outlined flaws in each of the 13 points in the study the Valley Housing Development Authority Corp. used in applying for the $2.6 million to build the complex near Wayne Gardens, an established neighborhood in the south end.

Valley Housing is a nonprofit community housing development corporation certified by the state Department of Community and Economic development, Zehler said. The Franklin County Housing Authority owns the land where the complex is proposed.

The borough's planning commission approved the project.

Last month, the borough's Zoning Hearing Board granted a special exception to the housing authority for a community center for use by residents of the new townhouses. The project comes before the Borough Council on Wednesday for final approval.

The project meets local zoning requirements, Barkdoll said.

Residents in Wayne Gardens are opposed to the project.

The study lists Waynesboro and surrounding communities that may be served by low-income housing. Included are Greencastle and Mont Alto. It also lists Old Forge Borough, a community of 8,729 people nine miles from Waynesboro, and Fairview Borough, with 219 people, five miles from Waynesboro, neither of which is in Franklin County.

"We are appalled and confused that the study includes several municipalities that do not even exist in this county," the councilmen wrote in their letter.

In another section, dealing with the number of people eligible by income for the townhouses, the report said there were 3,402 in 1990. The number dropped to 2,633 in 2000 and is projected to drop to 2,352 by 2006.

Tengler and Barkdoll questioned the need for the project since the number of eligible households is expected to steadily fall through 2006. They also said current residents of low-income housing were counted as residents in need of more housing.

They also disputed claims comparing the area's rental market, which they said is not an accurate reflection of the local housing market.

"Based on the foregoing concerns, we strongly urge you to further review the initial study submitted to your office," the letter to Bostic said. "We request that you consider suspending funding for this project until these various matters can be resolved."

Copies of the letter were sent to State Sen. Terry Punt, R-Waynesboro, State Rep. Pat Fleagle, R- Waynesboro, and the Franklin County Commissioners.

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