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Hagerstown City Council will adopt annexation policy

May 08, 2002|BY DAN KULIN /Staff Writer

dank@herald-mail.com

Hagerstown City Council members decided Tuesday they will vote to adopt a city annexation policy on May 28.

In general, the policy would require property contiguous to the city limits to be annexed into the city before city water and sewer service would be extended to the area.

The council first endorsed the annexation policy in October, but held off on voting to formally adopt the policy after members of the Washington County Board of Commissioners spoke out against it.

The proposed annexation policy then became entangled in city-county negotiations over amendments to a sewer service agreement.

Both city and county elected bodies approved amendments that would allow the city and county sewer systems to connect near the Washington County Detention Center and Interstate 81, as well as increase the charge for some new sewer connections outside Hagerstown. But the council's and commissioners' versions of the amended agreement differed in the sections regarding annexation.

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The sticking point in the sewer agreement has been a phrase that states the city "shall" accept new sewer customers from areas outside the city.

Some council members have said the word "shall" means the city can't refuse sewer service to properties outside city limits. That interpretation would prohibit the city from requiring properties along the city border to annex in order to receive sewer service, as the proposed annexation policy would.

The city version of the amended sewer service agreement replaced the word "shall" with the word "may."

The commissioners' version left the word "shall" in the agreement.

Councilman Lewis C. Metzner asked Tuesday how the council could talk about an annexation policy while the sewer agreement hasn't been resolved.

John Urner, a city attorney, said Tuesday that the city annexation policy "has no connection" to the sewer agreement.

Councilman Kristin B. Aleshire said the council waited to act on the annexation policy to give county officials time to respond to the proposed policy, which they haven't done.

The council also agreed on Tuesday to adopt a policy that would limit the connections to the city sewer system from outside the city limits. City Administrator Bruce Zimmerman said that in practice this policy, called a sewer allocation policy, would affect new development on property not contiguous to the city, and therefore not subject to an annexation policy.

The council agreed to also vote on the sewer allocation policy on May 28. Under this policy, the amount of new sewage the city plant would take from new outside-city customers would be limited to 25 percent of what the state allows. The remaining 75 percent would be reserved for new development within the city.

Zimmerman said the goals of the two policies are to encourage development within the city and to give the mayor and council more control over the extension of city water and sewer service.

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