I urge residents and business owners in the Borough of Chambersburg to attend a Dec. 9 public hearing about sidewalks.
Borough Council will be asked to approve maps for each ward that indicate where sidewalks will be required in the future. This meeting will begin at 7 p.m. in Council Chambers in the new borough office building addition behind 100 S. Second St.
Currently, sidewalks must be installed within two years whenever streets are repaved. Borough Council directed its sidewalk committee to re-examine this one-size-fits-all approach.
Committee members considered each street throughout the town and discussed whether sidewalks are really needed on dead-end streets, on cul-de-sacs and other areas where vehicle and pedestrian traffic varies greatly from the urban core of the community.
The sidewalk committee is recommending that Borough Council not require sidewalks in some parts of the Borough. This would include properties at the edge of town in all four corners of the Borough.
As a member of Borough Council, I believe this is a positive step that brings more common-sense to the process.
However, I urge my fellow Council members to exempt more properties than the sidewalk committee recommends.
In particular, I believe we need to exempt, or grandfather, properties in the southern part of the Borough that were in Guilford Township until 1967.
This was the last area to be annexed into the Borough of Chambersburg and sidewalks are not the norm in this part of town.
A major expansion of sidewalks would be costly to homeowners and business owners. A $5,000 sidewalk would be the equivalent of about 100 years of the pool/recreation bond tax, which is about $50 annually for the average homeowner in the Borough. It would be the equivalent of about 100 years of the current yearly storm water utility fee.
Borough Council has had little choice when it comes to imposing storm water fees, or the upcoming ambulance fee of $7 a month (as proposed). But it does have a choice about whether to add literally miles of sidewalk.
Why hurt homeowners — and the local economy — to fix a problem that doesn’t exist? These neighborhoods have never had a pedestrian accident.
Interesting Local History
Here’s another bit of interesting local history: As a condition of adding land from Guilford Township to the Borough of Chambersburg five decades ago, town leaders insisted that developers pay the entire cost of streets, curbs and sidewalks.
The landowners who sought annexation agreed in writing to pay these costs if their land was ever developed. After all, their land would become much more valuable once they had access to Borough utilities.
However, Borough leaders waived the sidewalk requirements when some of the land was developed just a few years later. They disregarded their own legal document. In at least one neighborhood 20-plus years later, the Borough waived sidewalks and the requirement of a bond (which would have paid for sidewalks if they were deemed necessary in the future).
As a result, today’s homeowners strongly object to possibly being ordered to pay for sidewalks that should have been the developers’ responsibility.
Homeowners and business owners have presented petitions and attended meetings. I hope Borough Council truly hears them on Dec. 9 and does not require sidewalks on this land in the Third Ward.
Third Ward Council Representative