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Director says housing authority not a public entity

July 15, 2003|by RICHARD F. BELISLE

waynesboro@herald-mail.com

WAYNESBORO, Pa. - The executive director of Valley Housing Development Corp., which is in a legal battle with the Borough Council over a proposed low-income housing project, said in a letter Monday that the nonprofit agency is not a public entity.

Last week, the council filed a lawsuit in Franklin County Court against Valley Housing, claiming it violated the state's Right to Know Act by failing to turn over all of a rental market study. The study, prepared by a Pittsburgh consulting firm, is the basis for a $2.6 million application to the Pennsylvania Housing Financing Agency to build a 22-unit complex.

Valley Housing plans to build the project on land owned by the Franklin County Housing Authority behind the Mount Vernon Terrace public housing complex near the Wayne Gardens neighborhood.

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Bonnie Zehler, who wrote the letter, is also executive director of the Franklin County Housing Authority. She did not return phone calls Monday.

Neighborhood residents have joined the council in fighting the project.

The borough's suit asks Valley Housing to turn over 98 pages it says is missing from the rental market analysis. It also claims the study is flawed.

In her letter to Borough Counbil President Doug Tengler, Zehler said Valley Housing is a nonprofit corporation organized under the state's nonprofit corporation act and is not subject to the state's right to know law.

She said Valley Housing is under no obligation to provide information the borough seeks.

"We are certainly disappointed that Valley Housing did not agree to release the information," Tengler said Monday. "If they have nothing to hide, why not release the information."

He said Valley Housing saysit's not a government agency, yet it has the same address, telephone number and employees as the Franklin County Housing Authority.

"Also, they are applying for government funds for public housing. How can this not be a public entity?" Tengler said.

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