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Shop till you drop and leave the annexing to the city

August 26, 1997

Whoops there goes another, not another rubber tree plant, but another chunk of Washington County into the city of Hagerstown.

In the tradition of Wesel Boulevard, that finely designed monument to commercial sprawl, the city is now looking to annex property at the Intersection of Interstate 70 and the Sharpsburg Pike that's pegged for a $40 million outlet shopping center.

Much like the city wants to annex land at the intersection of I-81 and U.S. 40 where another $40 million shopping center is planned - although this one is presumably an inlet shopping center, seeing as how it is not an outlet shopping center.

Man. You're a new resident to Washington County and somewhere between the Welcome Wagon and the power company it's the city knocking on your door asking if you want to annex.

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Pretty soon the boundary of Hagerstown is going to look like one of those weird congressional districts in the South drawn specifically to collect pockets of black voters.

(The classic joke was that the outline of one such congressional map in North Carolina was so long and thin that if you drove down Interstate 40 with your doors open you'd kill everyone in the district).

Hagerstown's tentacles are reaching everywhere; pretty soon it's going to be like Jacksonville - largest land-mass city in the United States with a population of 40,000.

Or maybe they're shooting for something like a city-state status, sort of like Athens or Sparta. Everything between Frederick and Hancock will be ruled from the City Acropolis on Potomac Street and once a year citizens from, say, Clear Spring will come to Hagerstown bringing city council members 16 bushels of corn and a herd of sheep as tax.

Oh, did someone bring up the issue of tax?

City officials did mention in passing that property taxes could add an eensie weensie bit to their enthusiasm for annexation of the outlet center. A big incentive? You bet your overstocked slightly irregular Levi's stone washed denim tote bag it's an incentive.

And hey, if finances get tight you can always slap a 5 percent polo shirt, crockery and sneaker tax onto the rolls and it's money-problem solved.

Which leads me to wonder why the city has been slow to annex the Artz Farm where the 135 Civil War battle of Antietam is to be recreated next month.

The city could pass Ye Olde Molten Lead and Black Powder Tax and make a killing.

And of course anyone and everyone who is in a position to annex into the city is in love with the idea, because it means they will not be under the thumb of those zany county commissioners and their Spruce Sluice wastewater treatment plant at Williamsport. Even if you're building a development at Huyett's Crossroads you want to build a monorail-like sewer pipe into the city to leapfrog that giant sucking sound on the Conococheague.

Speaking of overdevelopment, I'm just a little curious as to who'll be in charge of printing up all the human beings it will take to do the shopping that $80 million worth of new stores will require.

I know outlets are a tourist deal, but between them, Wesel Boulevard, the mall and the U.S. 40 complex, you're going to go into sensory overload shopping shock every time you need to run out for a picture frame.

That's why despite the somewhat higher cost I more and more find appreciating smaller stores, shops where you aren't overwhelmed, places where there isn't a crush of people or traffic and the shopkeepers know you by name.

Shopping areas like, dare I say, downtown Hagerstown.

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