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City will defend planners' Wal-Mart decision in court

January 31, 2001

City will defend planners' Wal-Mart decision in court



By DAN KULIN / Staff Writer


The Hagerstown City Council voted 5-0 Tuesday to have the city attorney defend the Planning Commission's decision to deny plans for a Wal-Mart Supercenter. That decision is being appealed in Washington County Circuit Court.

John Urner, a city attorney, told the Mayor and City Council Tuesday that they could decide whether to intervene in the case on behalf of the commission or on behalf of the developer or they could decide not to intervene at all, in which case the commission's position would be unrepresented in court.

Urner recommended the council support the commission. One reason for his recommendation was that the case has significance for the rest of the city because what is allowed on property with a C-2 zoning designation is at issue.

On Dec. 13, the Planning Commission turned down plans submitted by Wyatt Development Co. from Aiken, S.C., to build a roughly 200,000-square-foot Wal-Mart and a 30,000-square-foot retail building on 31.5 acres along Edgewood Drive.

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The commission's decision was based in part on a determination that the proposed development should be considered a regional shopping center and would be too large for a C-2 commercial zoning district, which is what the property is zoned. The commission determined the project is instead suited for property with a C-4 zoning designation.

According to the City Code, Hagerstown's C-4 zoning designation is for a "regional shopping center ... which contains at least 200,000 square feet of rentable space."

Earlier this month, Wyatt Development appealed the commission's decision to the court. A court date has not been set.

Councilman Alfred W. Boyer, who also serves on the Planning Commission, said, "It would be a travesty if this board decided not to ask legal council to intervene (on behalf of the commission)."

"We have an obligation to have legal counsel support in this case," said Councilman William M. Breichner.

Councilman Lewis C. Metzner said, "It is incumbent on us to support them in the courtroom. Not to is a vote of no confidence ... and a statement we will not support them."

Councilwoman Susan Saum-Wicklein said she agreed with Metzner.

Mayor Robert E. Bruchey II said he "probably agrees" with the Planning Commission's decision that the proposed development belonged on property with a C-4 commercial zoning and not on property zoned C-2.

But, the mayor said, "The Planning Commission voted with emotion."

Bruchey said the C-2 definition needs to be more "definitive."

"C-2 has no size maximum. We need to look at and change C-2," Bruchey said.

The proposed Wal-Mart has drawn fire from some Funkstown residents and elected officials there who say the development would dramatically increase traffic through their town.

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