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Official not impressed with agency's answers

August 19, 2003|by RICHARD F. BELISLE

waynesboro@herald-mail.com

WAYNESBORO, Pa. - A long-awaited meeting between the Waynesboro Borough Council and the agency planning a 22-unit federally subsidized affordable housing complex ended Monday night with the council president saying the agency failed to show that more units are needed in Waynesboro.

The meeting was requested by the council to get answers to errors in a market analysis done to support the need for the $2.6 million complex.

About 25 residents from the Wayne Gardens neighborhood attended.

Also present were Bonnie Zehler, executive director of the Franklin County Housing Authority and Valley Housing Development Corp., a nonprofit agency created by the authority to build the complex; William Koons from the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency in Harrisburg, the funding agency; Bennett Newcomer of Waynesboro, chairman of Valley Housing's board of directors, and Mark Shonberg, representing the Pittsburgh consulting firm that did the study.

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Among errors in the study were two fictitious Franklin County boroughs, Old Forge and Fairview.

Shonberg said they were a point of reference only and had no bearing on the PHFA's decision to fund the proposal.

Koons said the study was approved by his agency. A second study being done to correct errors in the first one will also be reviewed, Koons said.

The council has filed suit in Franklin County Common Pleas Court asking that Valley Housing provide documentation supporting the need for the complex.

Shonberg said employees from his firm did the study by driving through the area. They mapped a five-mile radius around Waynesboro as the target area for potential tenants, and interviewed Borough Manager Lloyd Hamberger, Carol Henicle, executive director of the Greater Waynesboro Chamber of Commerce and officials of Waynesboro Construction Co., which was awarded the contract.

He said the location meets the PHFA's criteria for proximity to services required by the tenants.

"The study addresses demand, not feasibility," he said.

About 80 percent of the potential tenants live in the five-mile radius shown on the consultant's map. The rest will move in from outside the area - a fact that did not sit well with the council or Wayne Gardens residents.

Angie Mason of Wayne Gardens questioned the need for more publicly subsidized housing in Waynesboro. "We're not saying we won't welcome new people, but why Waynesboro? Why can't it be built in Greencastle?"

Koons said his agency reviews applications for projects, it does not direct where they come from.

"We've been here for two-and-half hours and I have no more confidence that we need more public housing in Waynesboro than before the meeting," Council President Douglas Tengler said.

"We had to wait nine weeks for this information," he said. "These errors should have been explained before now. Public officials should be held accountable. The borough has already spent $2,400 on this," he said. "Ninety percent of the public housing in Franklin County is in Waynesboro and Chambersburg. This can't continue."

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