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Franklin Co. Commissioners delay vote on judicial center

Alternate plan presented

Borough wants traffic impact study

June 17, 2010|By JENNIFER FITCH
  • Second State Enterprises Inc. created this design for a 134,000-square-foot, five-story courthouse on North Main Street in Chambersburg, Pa. The proposal includes a parking garage.
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CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. -- Traffic concerns expressed by town leaders and an alternate plan have prompted the Franklin County (Pa.) Commissioners to delay their vote on building a new judicial center.

The commissioners planned to vote on the judicial center during their Thursday meeting. However, a Chambersburg developer presented an alternate proposal earlier in the week and Chambersburg's borough manager wrote a letter detailing major road improvements he foresees being necessary.

"I don't think we were anticipating that," Commissioners Chairman David Keller said of the letter.

In the letter, Jeffrey Stonehill wrote that the Chambersburg Borough Council authorized submitting its comments to the planning and zoning commission. He emphasized the importance of requiring the developer to do a traffic impact study that includes a five-mile radius for evaluating impacts.

The commissioners said last week they were in favor of a consultant's proposal to build a judicial center on North Second Street where the Jennings car dealership is now. That building, along with moving other county services downtown, could cost an estimated $52 million to $58.4 million.

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Stonehill wrote that borough officials expect the judicial center could necessitate:

o Construction of North Third Street from King Street to Grant Street to include a new bridge over Falling Spring Creek

o Construction of North Third Street from Grant Street to Broad Street

o Traffic signal upgrades or installation at North Second Street, Philadelphia Avenue and Commerce Street (North Point); King Street and Third Street; Third Street and Grant Street; Third Street and Broad Street; and Grant Street and Fifth Avenue

County Administrator John Hart said a traffic study would be done by the architect/engineer hired for the project.

"We had an understanding early on ... (the borough) would work with the county on whatever site we picked," he said.

Chambersburg Mayor Pete Lagiovane said the proposed judicial center could have a major effect on traffic flow.

"We just gave them an idea of the possible impact," he said of the letter. "We haven't been included as much as we feel we should have."

Downtown Chambersburg Inc. President Paul Cullinane said he's gotten calls from many businesspeople who want the court functions to stay in the downtown core. He said he supports proposals put forward by Bernard Washabaugh II, president of Second State Enterprises Inc.

Washabaugh's latest suggestion is for the county to build a 134,000-square-foot, five-story courthouse at the Lighten Up Chambersburg property on North Main Street. That proposal includes a parking garage that he says could also benefit King Street United Brethren Church.

Washabaugh's estimates show a $49 million price tag for that project.

Keller said the county's courthouse consultant, Carter Goble Lee, will be validating Washabaugh's figure and evaluating the proposal. He said the borough letter will be passed along to staff to "factor that into the decision-making process."

"We're trying to move as quickly as we can, but we need to take a good look at the information," Keller said.

"It's very obvious that passion runs deep in this project," Commissioner Bob Thomas said.

"The downtowns are fundamentally the identity of a community. When you rip out government, be it borough government or county government, from the downtown, you begin an erosion that you never recover from," Cullinane said.

Government functions tie into a downtown fabric that also includes churches, small businesses and larger commercial entities, he said.

"I feel (the judicial center) must end up downtown," Cullinane said. "Right now, I don't think it's going to."

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