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Residents want conditions on commercial development

June 23, 2004|by LAURA ERNDE

laurae@herald-mail.com

Neighbors who fear that a large retailer such as Wal-Mart is headed for their neighborhood said Tuesday an attempt to improve such large commercial developments doesn't go far enough.

The Hagerstown City Council is considering changes to its zoning regulations that would set standards for such "big box" stores.

Three residents of Brightwood Acres and nearby areas complained to the council at a public hearing Tuesday night that the standards should be set higher.

"The city can afford to be much more selective about what we require them to do," John Parsons of Thames Street told the council. "They're not going to pick up their marbles and go home if we don't let them build another cheap store."

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Under a proposal by the Hagerstown Planning Commission, which is up for review by the council, developers would be required:

- To locate "big box" stores closer to the street or behind a smaller "main street" style shopping center.

Zoning Administrator Stephen Bockmiller said that would eliminate "an ocean of asphalt" common in many designs.

- To have a landscaped plaza in front of the shopping center.

- To use high-quality natural materials finished in earth tone colors and finishes.

- On facades within 300 feet of a residential area, to use architectural elements that would give the building the appearance of being a series of smaller buildings.

- To screen outside storage areas with walls, fences or heavy evergreen landscaping.

- To have parking lot lights that project downward or ornamental street lights.

Developers would be required to submit a concept plan to the Hagerstown Planning Commission before a site plan.

Right now, the Planning Commission's first look at proposed shopping centers comes with submission of a site plan.

The new regulations also would apply to the redevelopment of existing shopping centers.

Those who testified said they are concerned about the potential rezoning of a piece of land between Mount Aetna Road, Edgewood Drive and Dual Highway.

It's part of a 250-acre block of land that might be rezoned for a combination of residential and retail development.

In February, a group of land owners presented to the Hagerstown Planning Commission a preliminary map of zoning changes the group wants.

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