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For roundhouse, 'it may be too late'

August 06, 1998|By BRENDAN KIRBY

The Hagerstown City Council has requested more talks with CSX Real Property Inc. over the roundhouse property along South Burhans Boulevard, but the two sides appear to have exhausted their options, a company official said Thursday.

Kevin Hurley, director of CSX Real Property, which owns the roundhouse property, said the company this week received the city's rejection of its offer to sell the land. He said the letter asked for more talks but contained no specific counteroffer.

Hurley said the company intends to move forward with its plan to demolish the buildings. The crescent-shaped roundhouse, which is on about 40 acres, is part of the largest railroad complex left from the steam era.

"I don't think we have any other choice," he said.

The company has applied for a demolition permit, but the city has not yet approved it.

Hagerstown Mayor Robert E. Bruchey II said he is disappointed that an agreement seems unlikely. He reiterated the city's position that it must know what environmental contaminants lie below the surface of the property before it agrees to assume legal responsibility.

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CSX officials have said they want a government agency or a private organization with resources to assume legal responsibility for the property.

If the city took over the property and found the ground was badly contaminated, it would not only lose the ability to develop the land but could be forced to spend millions of dollars to clean it up, Bruchey said.

"How can the city of Hagerstown, in ethical, fair conscience, not clean up that site but yet enforce codes" on other property owners, he said.

Hagerstown Roundhouse Museum Inc. President Bob Tracey said he still hopes for an 11th hour reprieve, possibly from the county or state government.

He said the museum has approached an out-of-town developer with ties to the community and to railroads.

"We still have several avenues," Tracey said. "It may be too late, but we hope not."

Tracey expressed frustration with city officials for not doing more to save the historic property. He said museum officials believe there are no "surprises" beneath the land.

Tracey said the city risks losing a golden opportunity to develop the site into a major tourist attraction.

"It's not farfetched. It's quite possible," he said.

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