WAYNESBORO—Nearly a dozen borough residents turned up in Borough Council Chambers Wednesday evening to weigh in on plans for a vacant lot.
At issue was a waiver request to permit lot frontage on an existing alley from a property located along Westview Avenue at West Second Street.
According to the Waynesboro Subdivision and Land Development Ordinance, “every lot or parcel of land shall abut an improved street except that the Borough Council may waive this requirement and permit frontage on an existing alley, provided the newly created lot or lots do not create traffic congestion nor interfere with the free flow of traffic in the alley.”
On Wednesday, Council held a public hearing after Encore Developers LLC sought relief from the street frontage rule.
“We’ve owned this property for about 15 years now and we’ve made several attempts to do something with this and it just hasn’t worked out,” said Paul Gunder, a local real estate broker who represents the developer.
The site is zoned medium-density residential, which allows multi-family development, but Gunder said the group has not submitted any formal plans to develop the site as such.
“We have no plans submitted and no plans in the works. We have no buyers for the property at this point of time. We are just trying to reach out and figure out what we can do with this property feasibly and economically. We’re not looking at any subdivision. It would stay as a single piece of property.”
But for the sake of borough review, developers did submit an informal sketch plan for what could potentially go there—an apartment complex—and that plan is what drew the attention of local residents.
“I’m not here to bash your dreams,” said Patrick Brezler, who lives in the 300 block of West Second. “Most of you don’t pull out at Second Street. You’re risking your life. My car has been hit by an 18-wheeler that couldn’t get around the corner. When school lets out you are in for a treat if you get to that intersection between 3:20 and 3:45. You’ll stop dead and sit there. The people trying to get west of Fairview to go pick up their kids, that’s jammed. There’s nowhere to go.”
Brezler said it’s not only traffic—parking is also a problem that would only be exacerbated by the addition of an apartment complex.
“It’s crazy to expect up to two people per apartment with two cars, if not more. To think that all of these people day in and day out are gonna have to come in and out of these apartments onto Westview is crazy,” he said.
Other residents suggested turning the vacant property into a park.
“We would be delighted to sell it to somebody for a park,” said Bernie McGarity, of Encore Developers. “Give Paul a call. We’ll talk to you.”
He said its not their intent to offend residents.
“The last thing we want to do is upset the neighbors. When we bought this property from the church, there was a beat up dilapidated nursery building there. We spent $80,000 demolishing it, cleaning it up, putting in the grass. We’ve cut the grass and picked up trash for 15 years. It breaks my heart when I drive down that alley and see trash in there, broken glass … we’ve been good neighbors. We tolerated all that. We took care of it. We never called the police. Now it’s time … we’re getting older … if we build 10 or 20 or 60 apartments, what’s the magic number?
“I think it would be an asset to the community. Waynesboro desperately need more apartments,” McGarity continued. “Warehouses are popping up. A lot of people want to settle in Waynesboro. They can’t find decent apartments. They can’t find houses. Prices are skyrocketing. This may be the solution.”
“We will take this under advisement and make a decision [on the waiver] at later date,” said Council President C. Harold Mumma. “Everything will be done in a public meeting.”
Mumma said council can make a decision on the waiver at any future public meeting. There is no timeframe in the ordinance for a decision.