CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. — Plans to expand and renovate the Franklin County (Pa.) Courthouse complex met resistance Tuesday from a few people concerned about the former Harmon's and Rahauser buildings being demolished.
The Chambersburg Planning and Zoning Commission reviewed plans for the project, which is expected to cost $1.7 to $2 million, at its monthly meeting. Demolition of the buildings at 28 N. Main St. and 173 Lincoln Way East generated some negative feedback.
One business owner asked if the town is becoming a place for government or commerce. She said she was opposed to a previous proposal to build a $50 million judicial center outside of Chambersburg's central core zoning district, but she didn't realize the revised plan involved tearing down county-owned buildings.
"As a lifelong resident of Chambersburg, it saddens me that it's going to be torn down," planner Lenore Wyant said of the one-time Harmon's Furniture building.
County Administrator John Hart said officials feel a driveway at Harmon's provides the best access for sheriff's office vehicles traveling between the Franklin County Jail and a new, secure courthouse entrance known as a sally port.
"Eventually we may be looking at secure parking, trying to control access to the back of the building," Hart said.
Assistant Borough Solicitor Welton Fischer said the planning commission is only permitted to make decisions in respect to the zoning and subdivision ordinances in place. He said that in Chambersburg, the only protections for buildings of possible historical significance are for ones in the National Register of Historic Places.
Hart said the county is awaiting an official letter from the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, but has verbal confirmation the agency has no qualms about the future of the Harmon's and Rahauser buildings.
The planning commission, on a 5-3 vote, decided to recommend the Chambersburg Borough Council approve the land development plans.
Noelker & Hull Associates is serving as the county's architect for the courthouse project on 2.4 acres. The county commissioners have said renovation and expansion are necessary to accommodate security needs and space constraints, which were exasperated by the addition of a fifth judge in the 2009 election cycle.
On Lincoln Way East, as part of the courthouse project, the county will permanently eliminate underground bathroom facilities that have already been blocked off at the sidewalk level for years, according to Phil Wolgemuth, borough planning and zoning administrator.