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'Big box' store is part of possible rezoning

February 27, 2004|by GREGORY T. SIMMONS

gregs@herald-mail.com

The Hagerstown planning director said Thursday she expects a group of local land owners to ask that a large portion of land along Dual Highway east of Antietam Creek and stretching toward Interstate 70 within the Hagerstown city limits be rezoned and primed for new development.

Earlier this month, group representatives led by land owner Richard Harrison, of Hagerstown, presented to the Hagerstown Planning Commission a preliminary map of zoning changes the group wants for more than 250 acres of land in Hagerstown's southeast corner known as the "Harrison tract," city officials said.

Their request calls for large tracts of unused land to be rezoned for residential and commercial uses, including larger businesses than the current zoning allows, homes and a large shopping center that could support a "big box" store, officials said.

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Harrison did not return two calls placed to his home Thursday.

Hagerstown Planning Director Kathleen Maher said Thursday that the initial drawings she saw for the zoning changes are "significant."

Maher said she does not know what kind of development is planned for the area, but "if it all comes at once, it could have a huge impact."

Maher said she expects the group's representatives to file an official zoning proposal within the next two months.

Hagerstown Mayor William M. Breichner said the area "has a lot of potential for commercial activity as well as residential, but I think the major concern is to make sure that the highway facilities ... are adequate."

According to group representatives heard on an audio tape of the Feb. 11 Hagerstown Planning Commission meeting, potential suitors for the land in question are medical professionals wishing to locate near the site proposed for a new Washington County Hospital and housing developers.

One piece of land within the area between Mount Aetna Road, Edgewood Drive and Dual Highway is being considered for a shopping center, one representative of the group said at the meeting.

That parcel, currently zoned for residential use, would be rezoned "C4," which is reserved for the use defined as "regional shopping center." The Centre at Hagerstown and Long Meadow Shopping Center are zoned C4.

That zoning request is in line with rumors that developers are considering building a large shopping center in that part of the city, Breichner said.

Breichner said Wal-Mart has been interested in placing a second area store in that part of town, but he said he has not heard that company officials have chosen a specific site.

Wal-Mart, which already operates a store at the Centre at Hagerstown, was unsuccessful in a previous bid to bring a store to the eastern part of Hagerstown.

That effort ended in August 2001, when a developer chose not to appeal a Washington County Circuit Court ruling that upheld a Hagerstown Planning Commission decision denying plans to put a Wal-Mart along Edgewood Drive near Funkstown.

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