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Hagerstown City Council mulls taking land for parking lot

May 30, 2002|by SCOTT BUTKI

scottb@herald-mail.com

Hagerstown City Council members Lewis C. Metzner and Penny May Nigh want the council to consider trying to forcibly take land from the Pangborn Corp. for a parking lot for Pangborn Park.

Council members have expressed concern about parking at the park in light of a plan by developers Richard McCleary and David Lyles to build residential units on 6.5 acres next to the park. The site is now an overgrown parking lot.

During Tuesday's council meeting, Metz-ner suggested the city consider trying to use its power of eminent domain to obtain some or all of the 3.5 acres for sale by Pangborn Corp., adjacent to the railroad trestle and across the street from the park pond.

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Metzner said the city should try to take only the land it needs for parking.

Nigh said Wednesday the city should try to get all 3.5 acres, "the whole ball of wax."

Under eminent domain, a public agency takes land needed for a public project and pays the owner fair market value for the property. The owner can contest the attempt and take the matter to court.

Mayor William M. Breichner said the city has never used the right of eminent domain to his knowledge.

Council members Carol N. Moller, N. Linn Hendershot and Kristin B. Aleshire said Wednesday they support researching the eminent domain possibility.

But Aleshire, Hendershot and Breich-ner said they were not convinced an eminent domain attempt would stand up to a court challenge. Hendershot called it "a very long shot."

In court, the city would have to admit other property near the park is available and possibly could be purchased and used for parking, Hendershot said.

Pangborn Vice President Randy Hudson said a comment on the possibility of eminent domain would be "premature."

Hudson met Tuesday with city officials about the available property. There was no discussion of price at the meeting, he said.

Pangborn is waiting to see if the city is interested in buying the property, Hudson said.

"We could be part of the solution," he said.

The council on Tuesday turned down a request to grant a special zoning designation for the proposal by McCleary and Lyles, who want to build 28 townhouses and 48 apartment units in three apartment buildings on 6.5 acres along Pangborn Boulevard between the park and Security Road.

The developers need a special zoning designation called a Planned Unit Development (PUD) to build apartments and townhouses there.

Without council approval of the PUD, construction is limited by the current residential zoning designation on the property.

The council vote to deny the request was 4-1, with Hendershot opposed. Hendershot said the park needs the 1.5 acres next to it that would have been given to the city under the developers' proposal. The property could have been used as a public parking lot.

Lyles is on the Hagerstown Planning Commission, but he did not participate in its discussion of the proposed development.

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