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Hagerstown City Council approves annexation policy

May 30, 2002|by SCOTT BUTKI

scottb@herald-mail.com

The Hagerstown City Council on Tuesday unanimously adopted a city annexation policy that will require property along the city's borders to be annexed before city water and sewer service will be extended to the area.

Opponents of the policy, including Mayor William Breichner, have said the policy could hurt development.

Breichner has said he favors annexation, but disagrees with using water and sewer service to bring it about.

City Council members have said the policy is important for the city's long-term health because it will lead to more annexations that, along with redevelopment within the city, is a long-term solution to its financial problems.

Annexations extend the city's boundaries, bringing more taxable property inside city limits.

The annexation policy, effective Sept. 1, requires that property next to city limits be annexed before city water and sewer service will be extended. Property owners requesting city water and sewer service whose property is not along the city line will have to agree to annexation whenever their property becomes contiguous to the city.

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The policy allows for some exceptions, which would be ruled on by the City Council or a council-appointed annexation committee.

City Administrator Bruce Zimmerman has said the problem is that people who live outside city limits and have access to city water and sewer service aren't helping pay for other city services they use.

Councilman Kristin Aleshire has said new annexations will give the city control of new developments now outside city limits.

Some city and county elected officials have said the annexation policy could be in conflict with an existing city-county sewer service agreement.

The sewer pact includes a phrase that states the city "shall" accept new sewer customers from areas outside the city.

Some officials have said the word "shall" means the city cannot refuse sewer service to properties outside city limits. That interpretation would prohibit the city from requiring properties along the city border to annex so they can receive sewer service, as the proposed annexation policy would.

Because of this, some council members have been pushing for the "shall" to be changed to "may" in the agreement.

On Tuesday, the council also unanimously adopted a policy that would limit the connections to the city sewer system from outside the city limits. Zimmerman has 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.

Under this policy, the amount of new sewage the city plant would take from customers outside the city 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 has 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.

Staff Writer Dan Kulin contributed to this story.

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