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Rezoning voted down

September 14, 1998|By JULIE E. GREENE

The Hagerstown Planning Commission voted against recommending that the City Council rezone land at the northeast corner of Eastern Boulevard and Potomac Avenue for commercial use.

Several neighbors have objected to having a commercial business so close to their homes and have expressed concerns about noise and already heavy traffic on Eastern Boulevard.

One neighborhood resident, John Eisenhower, of 210 Potomac Heights, said he agreed with the commission's Wednesday recommendation.

GEMCO Development asked that 14.5 acres be rezoned from agricultural to commercial use. Only about four acres on the corner are usable since most of the land is in a flood plain.

Richard Hopkins, GEMCO's real estate agent, said he found the commission's recommendation disappointing.

GEMCO consists of business people, some of whom are local, but most of whom are from out of the area, Hopkins said.

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In asking for the rezoning, GEMCO officials said there was a change in the character of the neighborhood and that a mistake was made in the original zoning, said Matt Davis, a city planner.

Commission members agreed a mistake was made in the original zoning because it was impractical to think that land would remain agricultural indefinitely, Davis said.

However, the commission did not agree there was a significant change in the character of the neighborhood, he said.

Commission members said the land should not be rezoned for commercial use because several of the city's last comprehensive plans state it should be used for open space, recreational or residential uses, Davis said.

The April 1997 comprehensive plan for the city also states the entire tract should be restudied for possible residential zoning, Davis said.

Washington County officials are not reconsidering the planned business zoning for that tract, said Paul Prodonovich, the county's director of permits and inspections.

GEMCO has a contract to buy the 14.5 acres and 87 acres to the north in Washington County across from Long Meadow Shopping Center.

Hopkins has said business and residential development is being considered for the larger parcel in the county.

A public hearing on the rezoning is to be held at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 27. The council will consider the rezoning at a later meeting. If the council denies the rezoning request, GEMCO officials can appeal to Washington County Circuit Court.

The commission voted 4-0 on Wednesday to recommend the council not rezone the land, Davis said. Member Dennis Miller was absent.

Chairman Doug Wright and members Fred Nugent, David Lyles and Steven Zaks voted against recommending the rezoning, Davis said.

Member Al Boyer abstained because he will consider the request as a City Council member, Davis said.

Member Jim Stone abstained because he wasn't at the Aug. 12 public hearing, according to the Hagerstown Planning Department.

Wright also missed the public hearing, but listened to the tape of the meeting and read the minutes before voting, officials said.

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