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Housing authority to seek new study

July 17, 2003|by RICHARD F. BELISLE

waynesboro@herald-mail.com

WAYNESBORO, Pa. - Waynesboro Borough Council members reacted bitterly Wednesday to news that a nonprofit corporation will pay for a second study to support the need for a 22-unit public housing complex after some council members called the first study flawed.

"Something is rotten in the county of Franklin," said Council President Douglas Tengler over news that Bonnie Zehler, executive director of Valley Housing Corp., the nonprofit agency that wants to build the $2.6 million project near Wayne Gardens, wants a second market study when she failed to answer the council's questions on the first one.

"This is an insult to Franklin County taxpayers," Tengler said.

Zehler said in a news release and letter to the council Wednesday that the council can recommend a consultant for the second study.

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Tengler and Councilman Clint Barkdoll filed suit in Franklin County Court on the council's behalf last week, asking the court to order Zehler to respond to questions about the original study and the alleged flaws it contains.

The suit alleges that the study, done by a Pittsburgh consulting firm, listed fictitious Franklin County communities, left out nearly 100 pages of documentation and was considered to be flawed overall by council members.

The Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency approved the $2.6 million based on the study.

The land on which the project is to be built, behind Mount Vernon Terrace, an existing public housing project off Fairview Avenue, is owned by the Franklin County Housing Authority which Zehler also heads. Neighborhood residents are opposed to the project.

Tengler called Valley Housing "a spin-off" of the housing authority.

Zehler, in a letter to the council last week, said Valley Housing does not have to respond to the council's demands for information because it is a nonprofit agency.

Zehler, in a press release Wednesday drafted by a Camp Hill, Pa., public relations company hired by Valley Housing, said the new study will verify the need for the project. She said she is "confident the new analysis will clarify concerns about the complex and resolve questions raised by Waynesboro officials in recent weeks."

Zehler said she wants to meet with Tengler.

"President Tengler and Councilman Barkdoll raised issues about the study which have caused questions among some members of the community," Zehler said in the release. "I want to alleviate those concerns, and apparently the best way to do that is to undertake a new study."

A second study will demonstrate the clear need for high-quality affordable housing in Waynesboro "where hard-working, low-income parents and single moms with children ... will benefit from well-built, new apartments. Once this is clearly understood by the Waynesboro community, I think we will put this controversy to rest," Zehler said in the release.

"I am pleased that Valley Housing and the Franklin County Housing Authority have decided to essentially dismiss the flawed market study," Barkdoll told the council Wednesday night.

"I believe this development completely verifies the position that council and local residents have repeatedly stated: That the original study was poorly done and materially inaccurate in many respects," Barkdoll said.

He and Tengler were adamant that the council's original concerns will be answered by Zehler.

"We still have a lawsuit pending to compel the production of documents from Valley Housing," Barkdoll said. "This matter is far from over."

Tengler said the suit would not have been necessary if Zehler had simply responded to the council's concerns.

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