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Council mulls closing Mulberry Street

May 03, 2007|by JENNIFER FITCH

WAYNESBORO, PA. - The fate of a narrow alley in town pitted businesspeople on either end of it against each other Wednesday at a Waynesboro Borough Council meeting.

The council and its street committee are in the preliminary stages of considering whether to close Mulberry Street from West Main Street to Gay Street. A proposal on the table would use lights and landscaping to create a pedestrian walkway.

The alley, also known as Mulberry Avenue, is the address for businesses like RE/MAX Associates Realty and Mulberry Laundry Center. Representatives of those two establishments spoke against the potential closure.

While its board of directors has not taken an official stance, representatives of nonprofit organization MainStreet Waynesboro Inc. offered that closing the alley would provide shoppers with a way to access Main Street businesses from the public Rotary parking lot.

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"MainStreet (Waynesboro Inc.) is for Main Street. ... If you're not on Main Street, it's like you don't exist," Realtor Darwyn Benedict said.

Benedict wants to continue giving people directions to his office by using his address and saying, "Turn from Main Street onto Mulberry." He already takes offense with "free parking" signs that he says direct people away from Mulberry Street on the way to Rotary parking lot.

Councilman Allen Porter said officials are in the midst of using traffic counters on Mulberry Street to assess its use.

Benedict asked for a professional study and contended that vehicle use has decreased since the "free parking" signs were erected. He also said the matter shouldn't be about the number of vehicles using the alley.

"You could close half the streets in town if you put a traffic counter on them (and) say there isn't enough traffic," Benedict said.

Waynesboro Fire Chief Ron Flegel expressed concerns about barricades preventing firetrucks from accessing water from Main Street hydrants.

"It's the direct access to the rear of some large properties there," he said.

The council already earmarked grant money to improve the Mulberry Street pedestrian walkway on the north side of Pa. 16 this year. No one could say definitively why that throughway was closed decades ago.

Harry Morningstar, who has a business on the north side of Main Street, asked Benedict to consider giving the closure a try. The conversion could be reversed, and the borough would "have a heck of a nice vehicular throughway," he said.

Benedict said the hedges and buildings mean the alley will always be dark, despite any efforts with lighting.

"You're not going to have people walk down Mulberry and feel safe," he said.

Whether viewing the matter as a business owner, councilman or MainStreet Waynesboro Inc. member, "we're not trying to be us versus them. We're doing this (review) for the success of everyone," Councilman Jason Stains reminded the crowd.

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