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Landowners speak out against possible changes in zoning

August 09, 2005|by DON AINES

chambersburg@herald-mail.com

Concerns over the density of development in Chambersburg's South End prompted the Planning and Zoning Commission to examine rezoning about 100 acres in the Third Ward from moderate to low-density residential, but the idea seems to have stopped at the discussion stage with the Borough Council.

At its Aug. 2 meeting, the commission split 4-4 on whether to recommend the council change the zoning to low density, which limits development to single-family dwellings and duplexes. The land, west of Hollywell Avenue and near the borough's wastewater treatment plant and old landfill, has been zoned medium-density residential since 1956, according to Phil Wolgemuth, the borough's planning director.

Medium-density residential zoning allows town houses, multiple-family dwellings and apartments, along with single-family dwellings, Wolgemuth told the council. In other undeveloped properties in the South End, however, the borough is reviewing plans for hundreds of housing units, including 467 town houses and duplexes in Progress Village on the south side of Mill Road and Mill Creek Acres West, a 200-unit town house development east of Hollywell Avenue, he said.

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The question the council earlier this year asked the commission to examine was whether "from a planning standpoint, should we consider reducing density in light of the development that's being proposed?" Wolgemuth said prior to the meeting.

Third Ward Councilwoman Elaine Swartz said the commission was asked to examine the land's zoning because of concerns raised by residents about the proposed developments in other parts of the ward.

At the maximum allowable density, Third Ward Councilman Glenn Manns said more than 1,800 housing units could be built within the usable portion of the 100 acres.

"I believe that's much, much more than should be there," he said.

Developers who own land there, however, told the council that rezoning the land would be unfair to those who purchased it as it is currently zoned.

"I own a little land in that area you're talking about," said Richard Rockwell. "It's money invested and you're taking money from individuals when you change that ordinance."

"I don't think it's right to change my plans and take my livelihood away from me," Rockwell said.

"I'm not only a developer in the community, but I live in the Third Ward," said Tanya Nitterhouse. She said she only recently learned the commission was looking into the idea and criticized the borough for not informing the owners of the land.

Nitterhouse said few people would be interested in buying a house near the treatment plant, but there could be a market for apartments, because people would only live there a few years.

"You're pulling the rug right out from under people who have made plans," Councilman Robert Wareham said.

No proposal was made for action on rezoning the land.

"It seems the consensus at this point would be 'no,'" Council President William McLaughlin said.

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