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Chambersburg council gives conditional OK to housing plan near Southgate

November 20, 2007|By DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - Over the objections of some residents, the Chambersburg Borough Council on Monday gave its conditional endorsement of a plan to build a 32-unit subsidized housing complex for senior citizens on property now part of Southgate Mall.

The condition is that PIRHL Developers of Warrensville Heights, Ohio, and Paran Management, the Cleveland company that owns the mall, come up with what Councilman Glenn Manns called "an ironclad agreement" to make improvements at the mall.

David Uram of PIRHL was seeking the council's blessing so the company could apply to the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency and other agencies by Dec. 14 for the tax credits, loans and other assistance it needs to proceed with the $6.8 million project. PIRHL would buy the 2.5 acres from Paran and build the complex in 2009 if financing is approved, Uram said.

Paran and PIRHL have a memorandum of agreement that facade, parking and landscaping improvements be made to the mall, Uram said.

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"That's an agreement to agree. That's not an agreement," borough Solicitor Thomas Finucane said. PIRHL and Paran should come up with an enforceable agreement on the improvements, he said.

Uram said Richard Surovi, a lease manager for Paran, said they were willing to do that to meet the Dec. 14 deadline.

"I can't count the number of proposals I've seen from Paran Management ... The only thing I haven't seen is action," Council President William McLaughlin said.

"For the first time in 16 years, Paran has come to the table with a credible plan to do something," he said.

McLaughlin said this is the only proposal for improving the property and, if it does not happen, there could be consequences for Paran.

"If this doesn't happen, I'm willing to invoke the one hammer we have over private property - eminent domain," McLaughlin said. The parking where the apartments would go is a blighted area, he said.

Residents and property owners at the meeting reiterated concerns they expressed at an Oct. 30 public meeting.

"I don't understand the economics of perpetuating poverty" in a part of town with hundreds of subsidized housing units, said Rosanna Johnson.

Larry Lahr said an unsubsidized, higher-density development would have a greater economic impact on that part of the borough.

Uram said a 2006 survey of the neighborhood showed there was no market for "market-rate" town houses, but there was a needed for affordable housing for people 55 years and older with low incomes.

The council Monday did approve a final subdivision and development plan for a 450-unit lease-to-own housing development to be built by PIRHL on Buchanan Street.

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