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Officials seek to resolves differences over housing plan

July 19, 2003|by RICHARD F. BELISLE

waynesboro@herald-mail.com

Waynesboro Borough Council President Douglas Tengler said Friday that he met privately with Bonnie Zehler, executive director of the Franklin County Housing Authority and Valley Housing Development Corp., Thursday night to iron out differences between the council and the authority over a controversial low-income housing complex planned for Waynesboro.

Attorneys for the authority, Valley Housing and the borough were present at the meeting held in the authority's office in Chambersburg, Pa., Tengler said. He was the only representative from the council.

Tengler would not give specifics about what he, Zehler and the lawyers talked about.

"We're trying to resolve our differences in the meeting room rather than the courtroom," he said.

The flap has created acrimonious relations between the council and Zehler.

Last month, the council filed suit in Franklin County Common Pleas Court asking the court to order Zehler to answer questions about a market study supporting the need for more public housing in the borough which the council claims is flawed and erroneous. The study, prepared by Barone, Murtha, Shonberg & White, a Pittsburgh consulting firm, listed two phony Franklin County communities and left out about 100 pages of documentation, the suit alleges.

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The Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency approved $2.6 million to build the low-income project based on the consultants' study. The project would be built behind Mount Vernon Terrace, a public housing complex off Fairview Avenue.

Also on Friday, Zehler, through a Camp Hill public relations firm hired by Valley Housing, issued a press release asking Tengler to call a public meeting so she can answer all questions about the study and the project.

Zehler, in the press release, said Tengler and Councilman Clint Barkdoll "are correct in stating the organization (Valley Housing) has not thoroughly responded to the concerns regarding the original market study ..."

Earlier this week, Zehler called for a second market study which she said would show the need for more public housing in Waynesboro.

"We are not trying to deceive or hide information from the public," Zehler said in the press release. "We are currently trying to organize all parties involved ... to coordinate a public forum where appropriate experts can participate in providing a thorough overview of the market study, the data, the methodology and the results."

Tengler said he would set a date for a public meeting. He also said he will insist that either Mark R. Shonberg or Bryan PP. Barone, both of whom signed off on the disputed study, be at the meeting to answer questions.

A hearing on the suit is scheduled Sept. 23 in Common Pleas Court, Tengler said.

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