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Planners, residents wonder alley is a street

March 14, 2006|by JENNIFER FITCH

WAYNESBORO, Pa. - If it looks like a street, is used as a street and has a sign that says "LOCUST ST," how is it an alley?

The question thrown at the Waynesboro Planning Commission by residents somewhat eclipsed the actual purpose of a Monday hearing regarding a proposed single-family house on Locust Street - a roadway called an alley by borough officials that runs parallel with part of North Broad Street.

The planning commission hosted the hearing as they considered the proposal from Darwyn Benedict and Mike Henicle. To approve the project, the planning commission would have to grant a waiver, since borough ordinance says no new construction is permitted to front an alley.

Very little land is available for construction on borough streets, so the planning commission recently agreed to review alley requests on a case-by-case basis.

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Approval only would be granted if the developer and plans meet three requirements: the lot or lots don't create traffic congestion or interfere with the free flow of traffic; any development is in accordance with the neighborhood plan and character; and a hearing is held for public comment.

Residents and the developer's lawyer never commented on the specific proposal at the hearing, but instead wanted to know how 12-foot-wide Locust Street is considered an alley.

"It is not an ordained street," Kevin Grubbs, director of borough engineering, said.

"Locust Street is not the only alley in town that says street," said Jon Fleagle, chairman of the planning commission.

Although it might not have been the specific case with Locust Street, Grubbs said the U.S. Postal Service had at one time requested that alleys with homes and businesses be better identified. Some alleys in Waynesboro that have acquired names over the years include Mulberry Avenue, Herald Place, Gay Street and Elder Avenue.

Sherry Cline, who owns property that borders Locust Street, said she always understood Locust Street to be a street and not an alley.

"If Locust Street has changed back to an alley ... you immediately depress the value of our property," she said.

"I believe this is a street. It doesn't meet today's guidelines ... (but) the borough has paved it. There are water and sewer lines. It has been plowed," Benedict said.

Councilmen Allen Porter and Craig Newcomer remarked that if Locust Street is made a street, the taxpayers might have to foot the bill to bring it up to the standards of a street.

Fleagle and Lloyd Reichard, the borough solicitor, said that, as the talk continued, they became more convinced that Locust Street is a street.

"If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it's a duck. Thus, it's possibly a street," Reichard said late in the regular planning commission meeting.

Regardless of whether it's a street or alley, the fact is that it might be flat-out dangerous to add any more houses to Locust Street, Waynesboro Fire Chief Ron Flegel said.

"Locust Street, as it is right now, is almost inaccessible to our emergency vehicles. There are areas ... we would have problems just opening the doors because the bank comes down," he said.

Flegel said firetrucks need at least 10 feet of clearance, but the topography of Locust Street makes the firefighters' job very difficult.

"I think the street needs to be improved or something (if you add houses). Delay only increases loss or risk of life," Flegel said.

The planning commission stressed that it will only review the proposed house, not the street versus alley matter. The house will be addressed at next month's meeting.

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