Group fighting truck center

July 03, 2003|by TARA REILLY

A proposal to build a truck distribution center near the line that divides the North and the South has drawn a line of its own - one between a 60-member opposition group and a developer who wants to build the facility.

The group, People Saving Mason Dixon, are trying to stop the truck distribution center from being built on farmland off Mason Dixon Road.

Members of the group said the truck distribution center would increase traffic on Mason Dixon Road and the narrow roads off it, lower property values, cause noise and environmental pollution and damage the agricultural-residential characteristic of the area.


"It's our lives. To have that happen is incomprehensible," Vince Serra, who lives on the Pennsylvania side of the Mason-Dixon Line, said in an interview Tuesday.

The group is made up of Pennsylvania and Maryland homeowners in the Mason Dixon Road area.

The proposed distribution center would be built on a portion of a 172-acre farm at 17939 Mason Dixon Road - Pa. 163). The road is in Pennsylvania, but the land is in Maryland.

The land, owned by Leo E. and Mary E. Martin of Hagerstown, is 3,000 feet from Interstate 81 exit ramps and near the Norfolk Southern Rail Road.

The truck distribution center would contain 337 truck spaces, 200 dock spaces, 126 car spaces and 53 tractor spaces, Washington County Board of Zoning Appeals member Kirk C. Downey said Wednesday.

According to the county, a truck distribution center is a business "with the capability to allow future associated uses including truck terminals, warehousing, private fueling facility, parking, maintenance and other truck related uses."

The Washington County Board of Zoning Appeals last month approved a special exception so the developer, Brad Fulton, president of 2003 Mason Dixon LLC, can build the center at the site. Fulton still needs site plan approval from the Planning Commission before construction can begin.

Fulton, also a vice president of A.C.&T. Inc. in Hagerstown, was out of the office Wednesday night and could not be reached for comment.

Two calls placed to a phone book listing for Brad Fulton of Greencastle, Pa., were not returned.

An attempt to reach him through an answering service was unsuccessful.

At least four other farms surround the property where the truck distribution center would be located, residents said.

"That kind of movement of tractor trailers is just going to create a nightmare along a two-lane country road," said Stephen Hill, who lives on the Maryland side of the Mason-Dixon Line.

Hill said he and other residents fear that such a center would ruin the area's rural qualities.

"That's the reason we all moved out here," Hill said.

People Saving Mason Dixon members said they believe building a truck distribution center at that location would pose traffic dangers for school buses that travel Mason Dixon Road during the week.

The Board of Zoning Appeals decided that the proposed facility would not harm the quality of life in the Mason Dixon Road area.

"Based upon all of the testimony and evidence presented, this board finds that the subject request does not adversely affect the public health, safety, security, morals, or general welfare, nor does it result in dangerous traffic conditions, or jeopardize the life and property of neighborhood residents," according to the zoning decision.

"The proposed use does not appear to be inconsistent with the surrounding neighborhood; it is located near Interstate 81, and several other trucking companies are located in the area," the decision states.

The Board of Zoning Appeals decided the proposed center is similar to a contractors equipment yard and/or storage yard, which are permissible special exceptions, according to the opinion.

Hill said residents fear the remainder of the 172 acres will be developed for additional commercial uses.

"We are mindful of the concerns expressed by the opposition, and we share their concern that the facility could grow into a 172-acre behemoth," the zoning decision states.

The Board of Zoning Appeals ruled that the facility be limited to 20 percent to 25 percent of the 172 acres, or 34 to 43 acres, which is what the developer had presented.

Antrim Township Administrator Ben Thomas said the township was disappointed that Washington County didn't notify the township that such a proposal was in the works.

He said the township heard about the proposed truck distribution center from a resident.

Thomas said the Township Supervisors recently instructed him to write a letter to the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation informing the department of the proposal. The letter also stated the township was concerned that Mason Dixon Road was not designed to handle increased tractor-trailer traffic.

"I'm sure there will be future discussions on it," Thomas said.

Tim Troxell, director of the Hagerstown-Washington County Economic Development Commission, said Wednesday the proposed center would be a plus for Washington County.

He said the company that would run the center already has another business in the county. Troxell declined to name the company, citing confidentiality reasons.

"We'd like to help retain them in the county," Troxell said. "Your existing clients are ones you try to take care of."

Troxell said he also understands the concerns of the residents living in the Mason Dixon Road area. He said there are other places in the county where such a facility could be located.

"We have plenty of places where you can build something," Troxell said.

People Saving Mason Dixon is holding a public meeting Monday, July 21, at 7 p.m. at the Maugansville Ruritan Building.

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