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Chambersburg votes to enter partnership with Habitat

Borough erases environmental district from books

Borough erases environmental district from books

August 12, 2008|By KATE S. ALEXANDER

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - With borough residents keeping mum during two public hearings on Monday, the Chambersburg Borough Council quickly erased its environmental district from the books with a narrow 6-4 vote and unanimously entered into a partnership with Habitat for Humanity to petition the state and the county for $375,000 to renovate three borough homes.

Only a yellow sign imploring the council to vote against eliminating the environmental district commented on the issues during the hearings.

Both the environmental district and the partnership with Franklin County's Habitat chapter garnered discussion in previous meetings.

Questions surrounding the environmental district began brewing after the borough denied a residential development in 2006 because part of it was within the district, as defined by a 1978 map based on a federal flood insurance study, where most new construction is prohibited.

The decision to eliminate all references to the environmental district from borough ordinances allows the borough's less restrictive Flood Plain Management ordinance to dictate development in the 100-year flood plain.

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Council President William McLaughlin said basing the environmental district on the 30-year-old flood plain map would mean more than 250 structures would become non-conforming uses in the district, making it difficult to build additions or make changes.

On Aug. 7, the Franklin County Planning and Zoning Commission reviewed the matter, and because the 1976 data could be inaccurate, it recommended the council eliminate the environmental district ordinance until the Federal Emergency Management Agency could re-evaluate the district's flood boundaries and flood plains.

While the council voted to eliminate a district Monday, it also voted to help another thrive.

The partnership with Habitat will likely benefit the Elm Street Project district as the organization hopes to use the money to purchase three homes in or near the district, Planning and Zoning Officer Phil Wolgemuth said.

Habitat sought the borough's help to secure a $350,000 grant from the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development and $25,000 grant from the Franklin County Affordable Housing Trust Fund.

Habitat Executive Director Michelle Bowen has said the money will be used to purchase properties in the borough, renovate them to meet current borough codes and sell them to qualified low- or moderate-income families.

The borough's partnership with Habitat is the first such joint effort between a municipality and the non-profit organization, Bowen said.

Staff writer Don Aines contributed to this story.

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