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Council votes to take legal action against project

July 03, 2003|by RICHARD F. BELISLE

waynesboro@herald-mail.com

WAYNESBORO, Pa. - The Waynesboro Borough Council voted Wednesday to take legal action against the Franklin County Housing Authority and Valley Housing Development Corporation in its fight to stop a low-income housing project.

The latest wrinkle came in the form of what the council said are missing documents in a September study prepared by a Pittsburgh consulting firm that is the basis for applying for $2.6 million from the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency to build the 22-unit project.

The project would be built behind the Mount Vernon Terrace housing project near the Wayne Gardens neighborhood.

The council and Wayne Gardens homeowners have joined forces to fight the project.

The council claims there is adequate low- and moderate-income housing in the borough. The residents oppose it, citing traffic, objections to what they say will be transient residents in the project and because of threats to their property values if it is built next to their neighborhood.

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The council members voted unanimously following an executive session Wednesday to authorize their attorney to take legal action, including filing a lawsuit if necessary, to force the Franklin County Housing Authority and Valley Housing to produce the documents the council claims are missing from the market study plus other data.

Among the information requested by the council Wednesday are nearly 100 pages it claims are missing from the market study, its exhibits, copies of all hand-written correspondence with the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency and the Pittsburgh consultants, copies of all minutes of the Franklin County Housing Authority from Jan. 1, 2001, to the present and the minutes of Valley Housing Development Corporation from its inception to the present.

Bonnie Zehler, executive director of the Franklin County Housing Authority and Valley Housing, said Wednesday the housing authority has complied or is complying with all mandates of the Pennsylvania Right to Know Act concerning the council's requests for information.

She said the board of directors of Valley Housing Development Corporation is meeting with its attorney to determine if the private, nonprofit agency falls under the dictates of the right-to-know law.

The housing authority owns the land on which the project will be built. Valley Housing will build and run the project, Zehler said.

Zehler said they are separate agencies.

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