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Vote set for W House loan

August 07, 2002

scottb@herald-mail.com

Hagerstown's mayor has scheduled an Aug. 27 vote on the W House of Hagerstown Foundation Inc. request for a $350,000 loan but Councilman Kristin Aleshire said Tuesday he wants the vote delayed until questions are resolved about parking spaces at the organization's planned new location.

The W House plans to move its substance abuse program for women into a larger building on Locust Street regardless of whether it gets the city community development block grant loan, W House Executive Director Christina Trenton has told the Hagerstown City Council.

The organization has purchased the 11,000-square-foot property at 519 N. Locust St. to replace its present 2,500-square-foot home on Antietam Street. The Locust Street property previously was the site of Ted's Rent-It Center.

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The W House received permission to put the program at the Locust Street property at a September meeting of the Hagerstown Board of Zoning Appeals.

The organization must go before the board again to get a variance on parking requirements because of plans to replace with a courtyard some or all of 10 parking spaces in front of the building, Economic Development Coordinator Deborah Everhart said Tuesday.

The earliest the W House can go before the Hagerstown Board of Zoning Appeals is at its September meeting because the required public hearing has to be advertised, she said.

Plans for the courtyard were in the documents submitted to the board in September, Trenton said.

Aleshire said the parking issue should be addressed before the City Council votes on the loan request.

Hagerstown Mayor William Breichner said the loan and parking are separate issues and the council can vote on the loan at the Aug. 27 meeting.

Councilman Lewis Metzner said he continues to be lobbied against approving the loan by people who live near the Locust Street property. Many are under the impression the city can stop the program from moving when the only decision in its hands is whether to approve the loan, he said.

During Tuesday's work session, Judith McLean, who lives near the Locust site, told the council that the location is not a good place for the program because there are already crime problems and other social service agencies in the area.

If the council does approve the loan, it should include contingencies, she said.

The total cost of the W House project is $1.13 million. The 14-year-old nonprofit organization has received about $700,000 in grants from the state government and about $90,000 in foundation and corporate grants, Trenton has said.

If the group does not get the city loan, it will seek additional funding from other sources, she said.

The program plans to use the new property to double its bed capacity from nine to 18, she said.

The extra space will enable the group to serve 40 or more women a year, Trenton said. W House averages a waiting list of 10 to 12 women, she said.

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