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Annexation approved despite residents' concerns

June 10, 1998|By JULIE E. GREENE

Hagerstown City Council members on Tuesday night unanimously approved annexation of 416 acres, including land for a proposed $40 million shopping center, despite concerns voiced minutes before the vote.

About 60 people packed Council Chambers in City Hall for the public hearing to annex the land northwest of the Interstate 81 and U.S. 40 interchange. About 79 acres of the land is for the Centre of Hagerstown shopping center.

The annexation takes effect on July 24.

Before voting approval, several council members explained that residents' concerns about access and development could be addressed during the planning process.

"Whether it's annexed or not, the development of this property is inevitable," said Councilman Alfred W. Boyer.

Councilman Lewis C. Metzner said the only issue was whether the city would benefit by annexing the land so it could collect property taxes.

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Councilman J. Wallace McClure said better access to the shopping center is needed. Proposed access now has a group of residents on Swan Road becoming isolated by the access road and a large berm.

Roger Schlossberg, an attorney representing several Swan Road residents as well as other nearby homeowners, called the vote "a miscarriage of justice."

During the hearing, Schlossberg said the center's developer and the Groh family, which owns the land, were talking about building a golf course and homes, but most of the land was zoned for commercial development.

Deborah Everhart, the city's economic development coordinator, said the city must zone the land as closely to the county zoning as possible. The zoning could change only during the annexation with the county's permission, which wasn't requested, she said.

Richard Souders, a Swan Road resident not represented by Schlossberg, said the center's developers tried to accommodate the homeowners by offering to buy their land during a meeting over steak dinners.

Since his family was probably going to move anyway, Souders said he took the developer - Petrie Dierman Kughn - up on the offer.

Souders said he was appalled the council hadn't given residents an opportunity to be involved in the annexation.

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