Required improvements could doom farm market

June 05, 1997


Staff Writer

Mary Stagner of Smithsburg owns the Greensburg Farm Market, a small family business just outside the Hagerstown city limits where customers can buy plants, herbs, fresh vegetables and fruit.

She's been in business for four years. Now the State Highway Administration (SHA) has told her she has to redo the curbing and parking lot entrance at the front of the property at 17835 Virginia Ave. and move an electric pole that would be in the way before she can make improvements to her business.

Stagner leases the site. Property owner Michael Fuller estimates cost of the work at between $14,000 and $15,000. Stagner said if she doesn't do the work, she'll have to tear down a greenhouse and canopy, and ditch plans for a second greenhouse. She might even have to close.


"We're only a small business," she said. "We're not here to make a killing, we're here to make a living. I don't have my prices high enough to afford to do this stuff. If I could afford it, it would be different."

Stagner said soon after she moved her business to Virginia Avenue from the Dual Highway, she put up a greenhouse at the rear of the property to protect her tender plants from frost and bought a $7,000 canopy to keep her garden produce from cooking on hot summer days.

Earlier this year, when Ted's Rent-It Centers decided to move in next door, Stagner said county officials who came to look at that site noticed her greenhouse and canopy, and told her she needed permits for them.

Stagner applied for the zoning variances she needed to get permits for the existing structures and for a second small greenhouse she wants to put up.

The county approved the variances in May but won't give her permits until the SHA signs off on them.

"The state highway people said since I was improving my business, I had to improve the road frontage, too," Stagner said. "The worst part is, if I took down the canopy and greenhouse and put everything back the way it was, I wouldn't have to do anything to the entrance."

"She's exactly right," said SHA spokeswoman Fran Counihan.

Standards for improvements such as curbing have changed over the years, but the state doesn't make property owners bring them up to code until they plan other changes to the property, Counihan said.

An SHA engineer felt Stagner's entrance had to be upgraded for safety reasons, because of the additional traffic those improvements would generate in the high-traffic area, Counihan said.

"I don't understand why everything has to be such a hassle," Stagner said. "This is ridiculous."

If she can't get her permits Stagner said she might have to close up shop. She said another option would be to bring in farm wagons, load them with produce and put umbrellas over them.

"You don't need permits for wagons," she said.

Counihan said she could sympathize with Stagner's plight, to a point.

"You could say that's the cost of doing business on that road," she said.

Stagner said the SHA suggested she ask her landlord to do the work. Fuller refuses. He said the idea of moving the pole especially irks him.

"That pole is on state property," said Fuller. "I don't own it and I didn't put it there. I don't see any reason why I should have to move it."

Fuller said if Stagner's business is threatened by the state's demands, he'll take further action.

"If worse comes to worst, I'll take legal steps to stop it," he said. "They're holding this over her head like an ax. It's a shame to do this to her."

The Herald-Mail Articles