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Westview expansion under fire

July 25, 2000

Westview expansion under fire



By BOB PARTLOW / Staff Writer


Residents who live near Westview Homes public housing complex in Hagerstown's West End said Tuesday they remain unsatisfied with expansion plans for the complex despite one change made at their request.

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Under an adjustment to the plan, South Mont Valla Avenue would remain a dead end, and not become a through street to the new development as first proposed.

Melinda Martin, who lives on the street, said she remains concerned about what the new development would do to the neighborhood.

"I think what they have done to change Mont Valla is a way to pacify us without addressing the real concerns," Martin said after a meeting to discuss the plan.

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She said her concerns include overcrowding at the schools and the changes the expansion would bring.

"It's the overall effect of having a big development in our area," she said. "When you are used to having a country setting and all of a sudden you're looking out on all these houses, it's a change."

Like others who spoke during the meeting at the Westview Homes Community Building at Main and Buena Vista avenues, nearby resident Angela Souders said she would prefer the Hagerstown Housing Authority to take a go-slow approach.

"We would like to see them take a small area and then see if it works," Souders said. "Then expand and continue."

The idea was endorsed by Hagerstown City Councilman J. Wallace McClure. All five council members and Mayor Robert E. Bruchey attended part of the meeting.

Ted Shankle, executive director of the Hagerstown Housing Authority, said planners must "design a development that is not a burden to the taxpayers." That precludes starting small and expanding, he said.

Souders said she was offended at Shankle's use of the word "blighted" to describe an area in the West End. Shankle said he was referring only to some homes there that have been condemned.

The Housing Authority wants to tear down 210 houses or apartments built in the early 1950s and situated on 15 acres. The complex would expand to 330 modern homes or apartments on 27 acres. The new development would be a mix of public housing, apartments rented at full value and 60 homes to be sold to private owners.

Area residents wanted to know how the Housing Authority would handle people who caused trouble in the development.

"My concern is how do we get them out of there," said Fran Tracey of Merrbaugh Circle.

Shankle said the authority has established policies and rules to identify and remove people who are not behaving as they should.

"We're working toward making people responsible members of the community," he said.

Residents of the nearby Community Estates housing complex expressed concern the revitalization of Westview Homes would make it difficult for them to sell their homes.

"This planned community, being raised up right next to our own recently completed planned community, will detract from the value and potential sale of our own homes," said Terry Land, who lives in Community Estates.

"When you build nice housing around other housing, that housing value goes up," Shankle responded.

The Housing Authority must obtain a $10.3 million federal grant as the first step in raising the $42 million needed to move ahead with the plans. The Housing Authority could find out as early as next month whether it will receive the HOPE VI grant, Shankle said.

City and state money and tax credits will make up the rest of the revenue.

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