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Old YMCA building could be church retreat

December 20, 2001|By DAN KULIN /Staff Writer

Old YMCA building could be church retreat



dank@herald-mail.com

If the Christian group Shiloh Ministries buys the now vacant YMCA building in downtown Hagerstown, it would primarily be used as a retreat and conference center, possibly beginning in February, a representative for the group's principal partner said Wednesday.

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Shiloh Ministries next fall might open a 50-student boarding school in the building for high school students taking English as a second language classes, the representative said.

But Shiloh Ministries principal partner, Ray Hope, said the sale of the building to his group is not definite.

"Everything up to this point looks good," said Hope, who also is minister at the 2,000-member Montrose Baptist Church in Rockville, Md. Hope wouldn't say whether his group will purchase the YMCA building at 149 N. Potomac St.

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"At this point, with all the information we have, it looks like we'll buy the building," said Kevin Harmon, the singles minister at Hope's church. Harmon represented Hope on Wednesday before the Hagerstown Board of Zoning Appeals.

Harmon said Shiloh Ministries hopes to host a retreat at the YMCA building for some Montrose Baptist Church members on Feb. 22-23.

On Wednesday, the Board of Zoning Appeals approved Shiloh Ministries' request to use the building as retreat and conference center, school, or daycare center.

The board denied allowing the building to be used as an athletic club, or for basketball or baseball camps.

The board did not decide whether to allow a church in the building. Board member James D. Johnson, Jr. said the board did not have to make that determination because Harmon said Shiloh Ministries doesn't plan to have a church that would be open to the public in the building.

Harmon said any church services in the building would only be for retreats.

Harmon said the board's actions were "very good news."

During a hearing before the board voted, the Rev. Kenneth Valentine from John Wesley United Methodist Church, which is next to the building, said he was concerned about a scarcity of parking in the area. He also said Shiloh Ministries' plans sound "too good to be true," and would duplicate some services already available.

Another Hagerstown minister spoke in favor of Shiloh Ministries' requests.

City Police Chief Arthur Smith asked if Shiloh Ministries was considering using the building as a homeless shelter, a drug treatment center, or a halfway house.

Harmon said no.

On Dec. 7, Hope and YMCA officials announced a plan to sell the building to Shiloh Ministries, which Hope said is a nonprofit Christian group headed by him and made up of investors who are "friends and family."

Hope said the building would be used as a school, church, day care and a retreat and conference center. He said the sale of the building was contingent on the zoning board approving those uses.

YMCA activities have moved out of the downtown building and into the new $8.4 million Richard A. Henson Family YMCA on Eastern Boulevard.

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