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Residents voice campus concerns

November 05, 1999|By SCOTT BUTKI

A neighborhood group opposes putting a university center at the Hagerstown Community College, but other nearby residents and merchants say they want it there.

The Robinwood Homeowners Alliance, which has at least 50 members, thinks it would be a mistake for Gov. Parris N. Glendening to put the University System of Maryland Hagerstown center on a site directly east of the community college, Alliance founder and spokesman Kurt Redenbo said Friday.

Others have mixed feelings.

About 10 area residents interviewed Friday said they aren't happy that traffic on Robinwood Drive would be heavier if the center is built at the community college site. But most of them said that concern is outweighed by their feeling the site is better than the Baldwin House complex in downtown Hagerstown or Allegheny Power's Friendship Technology Park site off Interstate 70 when crime and parking are taken into consideration.

"I think it would be a great idea," said Nick Dudley, who lives in nearby Woodbridge Townhomes.

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There would be more traffic but it would be dispersed around class times, he said.

"It does make more sense," agreed Helen Martin, who lives on Robinwood near Bluebird Avenue.

Still, Martin said traffic in the area is "horrible" now. She said she sometimes has to wait 15 to 20 minutes for a break in traffic to cross the street to get her mail.

"You think, 'this can't be real,' " she said.

Washington County's legislative delegation and four members of the steering committee this week switched their support to the HCC site, saying it met Glendening's Smart Growth Initiative more closely than the Allegheny Power site. Some had previously criticized the community college site.

"Just a few short weeks ago, many of the same people now endorsing the HCC site went on the record to tell us why this location was a flawed choice for the Maryland campus," Redenbo said.

"They referred to it as a traffic nightmare, and said in no uncertain terms that it posed significant issues regarding the cost to taxpayers, environmental harm, and opposition from homeowners in this corridor.

"They're simply using Smart Growth as a shield to endorse the site that they've unofficially supported all along - regardless of the implications for people who call this neighborhood their home,'' Redenbo said. "We are optimistic that when Governor Glendening is presented with the full story he will see that the HCC site undermines the very values that Smart Growth is attempting to protect."

The Robinhood Alliance previously opposed the college buying the 116-acre site with a $1.4 million loan from the Washington County Commissioners, and members dispute the college president's claim that it was meant to serve as a buffer.

President Norman Shea said the college has been trying to buy the land for at least five years.

Redenbo said he thinks the campus should be built downtown. However, the Alliance has taken no official stand on where the campus should go, he said.

Dorothy Sites said heavy traffic on Robinwood in front of her house near Bluebird Avenue is already a problem and the 25 mph speed limit is often ignored.

Despite that, she prefers the community college site to the downtown site. She thinks some people would not attend the campus if it was downtown.

Employees at two businesses at College Plaza, across Robinwood from the college, like the idea of a campus being built next to HCC.

"I see nothing wrong with it," said George Massie of PC Electronic Service.

"It would bring more people into my store," said Lowell Freese, general manager of The Gentle Nudge, a health food store.

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