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Superfund land-use proposals presented

April 18, 2003|by SCOTT BUTKI

scottb@herald-mail.com

Graduate architecture students from the University of Virginia on Thursday publicly presented proposals on ways to reuse Central Chemical's contaminated 19-acre property in Hagerstown's West End, including as a farm or sports park.

A city land-use committee has been meeting in recent months to develop recommendations for the future use of the property off Mitchell Avenue, which in 1997 was placed on the Environmental Protection Agency's Superfund list of the country's most hazardous waste sites.

Some university staff and students have been doing research and analysis of the Central Chemical site - along with suggestions on how to improve Hagerstown - as part of a government-funded analysis of an EPA program funding community-based planning efforts at Superfund sites.

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While the committee has been talking about general ideas for the site's future use, such as light industrial, the concept plans presented Thursday were more specific and more outside of the norm, such as making it into an urban nesting site.

Hagerstown Planning Director Kathleen Maher and acting Fire Chief Rick Kipe, who is on the committee, said some of the ideas were great because they were developed by people who do not live or work in the area.

Student Maria Riley, for example, suggested closing some of the downtown alleyways to traffic so they then could be available for other uses, such as housing, businesses or park land.

While she was thinking of new uses for alleyways, which could help revitalize downtown, "we see them as shortcuts," Jim Snyder of Hagerstown told the group.

There were two related but different student presentations Thursday night, one for city staff and the second for the public and the committee.

The land-use committee is scheduled to decide at a meeting next week what use or uses to recommend. The recommendations then will be presented at a May 22 public hearing at Western Heights Middle School.

The EPA will determine whether the recommended use is realistic and feasible.

Committee member Robert Nigh, husband of Councilwoman Penny May Nigh, suggested the students return to present their ideas to the Hagerstown City Council and the Washington County Commissioners since they are providing fresh insights.

Professor Daniel Bluestone said he is hoping some elected officials will attend a May 4 Washington County Historical Society function from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. at the Frostburg University Center in downtown Hagerstown at which some of the students' proposals and findings will be discussed further.

The EPA says that from the 1930s until the facility closed in the mid-1980s, Central Chemical blended agricultural pesticides and fertilizers, creating waste and byproducts that the agency alleges were disposed of in an old stone quarry on the property and in a sinkhole.

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