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Annexation proposal faces heavy opposition

May 26, 1999

Annexation hearingBy DAN KULIN / Staff Writer

photo: RIC DUGAN / staff photographer




A proposed annexation and development of the former Fox Deceived plantation along Mount Aetna Road near Hagerstown was overwhelmingly opposed by the estimated 200 people who attended a public hearing on the matter Tuesday night.

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The crowd rousingly applauded each of the 24 people who spoke against the proposed development during the three-hour hearing.

According to development plans, 230 housing units in brick quads, triples and duplexes would be built on the 36.7 acres between Mount Aetna Road and the Brightwood Acres, Londontowne and Fairway Meadows subdivisions.

"This is a very nice development but I don't want it in my back yard," said Martha Rogers, who lives along the south side of the property that Triad Properties has requested be annexed.

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Residents speaking against the proposed development said they feared it would hurt their neighborhood by greatly increasing traffic, creating additional flooding problems and putting a strain on the public schools.

Most of those people also said they were against the high-density development, and said they would rather see single-family houses built on the property.

Matt Davis, a city planner, said the city also had received 71 letters from residents opposed to the proposed development and annexation.

One person spoke in favor of the development.

Jeff Bowers, who lives along the east side of the property, said at first he was opposed to the development project but now he's satisfied that the developers will address his concerns and that the development would fit in with the surrounding area.

Triad Properties is requesting the property be annexed into Hagerstown, and that the zoning designation be changed from agricultural to residential.

If both requests are approved, the property would be sold to a development company owned by Hagerstown developer and construction company owner Wes Churchey.

The development would have tree-lined streets and walking paths and each housing unit would have a two car garage in the back. The average price for each unit would be about $175,000, Churchey said.

During the public hearing, representatives of the developer and landowner said that because the development would target people heading into retirement as potential residents, there would be few children and few cars coming from the property.

They also said that flooding concerns would be addressed during more detailed planning for the site, with areas designated for storm water management.

City Administrator Bruce Zimmerman said the annexation and zoning requests will be discussed during an upcoming City Council work session before being voted on.

Councilman Wally McClure said he was swayed by the number of people who came to speak against the proposed development and probably will vote against the annexation and rezoning requests.

Councilman Lew Metzner said he too was against granting the requests.

Councilman Bill Breichner said that he favored the annexation, and that he believed that all the residents' concerns could be addressed in the planning process.

Councilwoman Susan Saum-Wicklein said she hasn't decided whether she is for or against the proposed development.

Councilman Al Boyer declined to comment on the requests, saying he needed more time to review the proposed development.

At its separate Tuesday meeting, the Washington County Commissioners briefly discussed the annexation proposal and expressed concern about the impact the move would have on the county.

The commissioners made plans to discuss the proposal at their meeting next week in order to develop comments to present to the city.

Commissioner Paul Swartz said he has received many calls about the proposal.

The site of the planned development is the same property on which a 1770s-era log house stood until it was demolished in early March.

The demolition was criticized because the Washington County Permits Department approved the demolition without verifying the applicant's claim that the property was not historical.

The house was on a plantation called Fox Deceived, and was built by Conrad Hogmire. In 1776, Hogmire became one of the county's first commissioners.

The developers and county officials have said the misunderstanding was unfortunate.

Legally the county could not have prevented the demolition, Stephen Goodrich, chief senior planner for Washington County, said.

The city's official record will be left open for 10 calendar days if the public wants to comment on either the annexation or rezoning requests.

Comments can be sent to the City Clerk, Hagerstown City Hall, 1 E. Franklin St., Hagerstown, MD 21740.

Staff Writer Scott Butki contributed to this story.

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