Eminent domain resolution passes

July 24, 2002|by SCOTT BUTKI

The Hagerstown City Council on Tuesday adopted, by a 4-1 vote, a resolution offering to use its power of eminent domain to forcibly take land to help Washington County Hospital if it chooses a site that would keep it downtown.

The downtown site is a two-block area that includes 59 properties that would need to be acquired if the location is selected, Mayor William M. Breichner said after the meeting.

Breichner confirmed that the city suggests the hospital be built between East Franklin and East Washington streets, between Mulberry Street and North Cannon Avenue.


The property is across Cannon Avenue from CVS Pharmacy.

To meet the needs of a new hospital, the city said a parking deck could be built on the block surrounded by Washington, Antietam and Mulberry streets and South Cannon Avenue, he said.

The Hagerstown City Council also looked at three other possible city sites for a hospital, Breichner said. Those sites were the Venice Inn on Dual Highway, property across from Food Lion on Eastern Boulevard and property off Interstate 81 near Salem Avenue.

The council concluded the downtown site was the best location for a hospital in terms of providing urban renewal, visibility and access, Breichner said.

Councilwoman Penny May Nigh voted against the eminent domain resolution, which was proposed by Breichner.

Nigh said she cannot support the resolution because citizens do not know the details of the city proposal. She also has to consider the perspective of residents who would lose their homes, she said.

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.

Breichner said he does not think the city has used its power of eminent domain in the last 30 years.

Breichner said he assumes the hospital would pay for the cost of buying the property.

The city has asked the state Office of Smart Growth to help provide other incentives to the hospital to choose the city site, Breichner said.

In a meeting with a hospital search committee, the city also offered to give the hospital financial breaks on water, sewer and electricity if it chooses the city site, Breichner has said.

The hospital is the city's largest sewer customer, paying $255,000 in fiscal 2001, according to the city's annual financial report.

The hospital is the city's fifth largest water customer, paying $94,000 in fiscal 2001, the report said.

The hospital is the city's second biggest electrical customer, paying $519,018 in fiscal 2001, the report said.

A search committee has narrowed the number of possible locations for a possible new hospital to three sites.

Besides the downtown site, the other two sites being considered have been identified as Allegheny Energy's 450-acre Friendship Technology Park south of Hagerstown off Interstate 70, and 230 acres of agricultural land just east of Hagerstown Community College and near the Robinwood Medical Center. The center is owned by the Washington County Health System, the hospital's parent company.

Hamill announced in November that the system was considering building a new hospital.

After a preferred site is selected, the system can get a better handle on the estimated costs and determine whether it can afford a new hospital, Hamill said.

A decision on whether the system can afford a new hospital won't occur until next summer, Hamill said.

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