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Chambersburg to consider eliminating environmental district to control development

Flood Plain Management ordinance would be used instead

Flood Plain Management ordinance would be used instead

June 17, 2008|By DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. -- The Chambersburg Borough Council voted 6-3 on Monday to consider eliminating its environmental district as too restrictive in favor of using its Flood Plain Management ordinance as the principal means of controlling development within the 100-year flood plain.

The district was created in 1982 and was supposed to be based on a 1978 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 That superseded a 1976 flood plain study.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 map. The zoning board's decision came after plans for a residential development were denied in 2006 because part of it was within the environmental district as defined by the 1978 map, where most new construction is prohibited.

Council President William McLaughlin and council members Robert Wareham, Heath Talhelm, Mary Beth Shank, Tom Newcomer and Janet Lukic voted to eliminate the environmental district. Council members Elaine Swartz, Sharon Bigler and Glenn Manns voted against the motion.

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The council was set to consider an amendment to the zoning map to base the environmental district on the 1978 map and revise it in the future to reflect "any successor one-hundred-year flood plain map."

The Federal Emergency Management Agency was supposed to have begun work on that successor map in 1998, McLaughlin said.

"I don't think we can afford to sit and wait for FEMA to do anything," McLaughlin said. "They're 10 years late now."

Basing the environmental district on the 30-year-old flood plain map would mean more than 250 structures would become nonconforming uses in the district, making it difficult to build additions or make other changes, McLaughlin said.

In the absence of an environmental district, the Flood Plain Management ordinance would be used to regulate development within the 100-year flood plain, Zoning Officer Phil Wolgemuth said.

In the case of residential construction, the lowest level of homes, including basements, would have to be above the base flood level, he said.

The council set Aug. 11 as the date of a public hearing to discuss the possible dissolution of the district.

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