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Chambersburg council delays vote on environmental district changes

June 10, 2008|By DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - Following a two-hour discussion Monday night, the Chambersburg Borough Council will consider next week whether to approve, defer or reject a proposed amendment to its environmental district that is opposed by many affected property owners.

In 1982, the council created the environmental district based, it thought at the time, on a 1978 flood way and flood plain map based on a federal flood insurance study. That superseded a 1976 flood plain study.

However, in March, the borough's Zoning Hearing Board determined that the environmental district ordinance referenced the 1976 flood plain map, according to Zoning Officer Phil Wolgemuth.

If the council votes next week to amend the ordinance to reflect the 1978 study, as originally intended, the differences will be significant. The 1976 map identified 278 acres within the 100-year flood plain, while the 1978 map defined an area of 336.5 acres of flood plain and flood way, the latter being low-lying areas along the Conococheague Creek and Falling Spring that normally flood.

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The difference is in less in acreage, however, than in which areas the different studies define as within the flood plain. Wolgemuth said more than 250 existing properties would become nonconforming uses based on the 1978 map.

"From a redevelopment standpoint, we're institutionalizing ugly," Council President William McLaughlin said. There are restrictions on how nonconforming properties can be expanded or changed, he said.

McLaughlin referred specifically to a vacant tire shop that is a nonconforming use in the flood plain and thus sits abandoned.

Within the environmental district, new construction is limited to uses such as parking lots, public and private recreational area, campgrounds, public utilities, and dams and bridges, according to the ordinance.

Portions of Chambersburg Hospital, Wilson College, TB Woods, the Falling Spring Presbyterian Church and other businesses and institutions which might wish to expand in the future fall within the 1978 flood plain map, as diagrammed by Wolgemuth.

To further complicate the issue, the Federal Emergency Management Agency plans to do another study of the flood plain in 2009. The proposed amendment would update the environmental district based on whatever comes out of that study, a map that might not be finalized until 2011.

The council will resume discussions on five options at its Monday, June 16 meeting.

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