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Transportation a key point in Chambersburg plan update

November 28, 2007|By DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - Continued downtown revitalization, housing rehabilitation and improved education top the list of what Chambersburg should do over the next decade to foster sustainable economic development, said a consultant working on Chambersburg's comprehensive plan update.

Continuing private and public investment downtown will bring in more businesses, tourists and dollars, said April Showers, a senior associate with Johnson, Mirmiran & Thompson, the consulting firm that has worked with the Planning and Zoning Commission for the past year.

Housing rehabilitation programs will prevent aging houses from deteriorating to the point beyond which they become impractical to repair, Showers said.

"Increase the levels of education to meet the current and future business needs" of the community was her third priority. A work force balanced between blue-collar and white-collar jobs is needed to keep the economy strong, she said.

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"Amen. Preach it, sister," said one man at The Capitol Theatre Center.

Meant to serve as a blueprint for development in the next 10 to 15 years, the plan is being updated for the first time since 1995, Phil Wolgemuth, the borough's director of planning, told about 40 people at Tuesday's public meeting.

Some objectives of the 1995 plan were achieved, Wolgemuth said last week, including The Capitol Theatre Center, the Heritage Center and the Village on the Falling Spring project.

"Transportation is your major goal," said resident Eugene Rideout, who said he has signatures of 750 people who want public transportation in Chambersburg.

While two-thirds of respondents to a survey said public transportation is needed, Showers said resuscitating the inactive Chambersburg Transit Authority is not the answer. The authority ceased operations a few years ago after the fixed-route service piled up about $1 million in debt.

Showers suggested "partnering with an existing provider ... to see if they can put service in your community." Capital Area Transit in Harrisburg, Pa., and rabbittransit in York, Pa., are two transportation systems she mentioned as possibilities.

About one in five people in the downtown and surrounding neighborhoods live below the federal poverty line, according to the summary.

A significant number of downtown homes need repairs and many commercial buildings need major second- and third-floor renovations to attract new tenants.

The 14-page summary includes 21 strategies on land use alone, such as creating designated revitalization areas. It also examines transportation, housing, economic development, community facilities and utilities, and historic and natural resources.

Showers said the plan is not just about government action, but creating an environment in which people and businesses can flourish.

"It's up to all of you and all of your neighbors ... to tackle some of these problems," she said. "Don't look to the borough government to do everything."

Wolgemuth said the plan will be ready for adoption by the borough council early next year.




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Details of the plan are available on the Borough of Chambersburg's Web site, www.borough.chambersburg.pa.us.

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