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Funkstown school parents upset about Wal-Mart

May 17, 2000|By TARA REILLY

Parents who fear their children's safety might be at risk if a proposed Wal-Mart Supercenter is built near Funkstown Elementary School have taken their concerns to the Washington County Board of Education.

Board member B. Marie Byers said parents have several concerns, including excess traffic, the proximity of the school to the store's loading dock, dumpsters being placed near the school and the noise from construction equipment interrupting class.

She also said they're worried pedophiles could mix in with the high volume of store customers and lurk around the school.

"Those are valid concerns, and I think they must be addressed," Byers said Wednesday.

Greg Nearchos of Funkstown, who said he was speaking on behalf of a group of parents, presented the School Board with a list of safety requests Tuesday night. One request is for construction of a 10-foot wall between the store and the school.

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The proposed 208,720-square-foot store would be built off Edgewood Drive in Hagerstown between Twigg Cycles and Funkstown.

Byers was told the wall would be a good idea because the store's loading dock would be 75 feet from portable classrooms on school grounds.

"That's five car lengths," Byers said. "When you visualize that, that's quite a site."

Nearchos, who urged the board to take pro-active measures in the matter, wants the store to be at least 300 feet from the school, which has about 180 students.

Parents also want the store's developers to rotate store plans so that dumpsters and the loading dock would not face the school.

He also suggested use of heavy equipment for the Wal-Mart construction work be restricted while school is in session and that traffic near the school be limited.

Store plans also include a new road along the property line next to Twigg Cycles. The road would go to the end of the property line and head toward Hebb Road, but would not connect to Hebb Road.

It's possible the new road would be extended to Hebb Road as part of future development, according to Hagerstown planners.

"It's going to be a mess," Pam Newhouse, a member of the Citizen Advisory Committee at Funkstown Elementary, said. "Hebb Road is very dangerous now because visibility is limited by houses and plantings. It's hard to get in and out. There's a good possibility kids could get hit by a car."

Nearchos has asked the School Board to send a letter to the Hagerstown Planning Commission urging that panel to consider student safety concerns.

"I am somewhat disappointed that this has not been addressed thus far," Nearchos said. "Let's hope we can plan for this and lessen the impact for our students."

Nearchos said he'll address the Planning Commission on Tuesday, May 30.

Byers said she expects the School Board to discuss the concerns at a future business meeting.

"Student safety has got to be considered seriously," she said. "We want to have some answers. Board members should be encouraged to go visit the site and walk around, see the space."

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