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Group says no to rezoning

August 06, 2004|by TARA REILLY

tarar@herald-mail.com

HAGERSTOWN - Mildred Nethken walked with a cane and Helen Clark used a walker to maneuver their way around a grassy area along Dual Highway in Hagerstown on Thursday.

Once they found their spot, they hoisted signs over their heads along with about 90 other people protesting a proposal that would turn a residential area near the intersection of Dual Highway (U.S. 40) and Day Road into a district that would allow large businesses and possibly a "big-box" store.

"We just felt so strongly, even with our limitations, that we felt we should come," said Nethken, who said she had hip surgery several years ago.

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Clark, holding a sign that stated "Stop Urban Sprawl Save Downtown," said the city should direct growth to downtown Hagerstown.

Clark and her husband, Jim Clark, live in Brightwood Acres, a development behind the area that might be rezoned.

"It's such a beautiful neighborhood," Jim Clark said. "It's just going to change it for the worse."

The residents fear a rezoning would pave the way for Wal-Mart to build a second store off U.S. 40. There's a Wal-Mart on Garland Groh Boulevard, about five miles east of where the protesters stood.

The protesters said they oppose the possible rezoning and want the area to remain solely residential. They said they fear large businesses would increase traffic on the already clogged Dual Highway, create crime and reduce property values.

Hagerstown Planning Director Kathleen Maher said Wal-Mart is looking at the site near the Dual Highway and Day Road intersection, but the property owner, Richard Harrison, hasn't made a formal rezoning request.

The city also hasn't received a formal proposal from Wal-Mart, Maher said.

Harrison, however, has had some preliminary discussions with the city regarding a potential rezoning, Maher said.

"At this point, we still don't have a rezoning application submitted," Maher said. "We don't know what they're going to do."

Maher said Wal-Mart also is looking at other properties in the eastern part of Hagerstown.

Harrison could not be reached for comment, and a phone call placed to a listing for R.L. Harrison was not returned Thursday night.

Wal-Mart spokesman Dan Fogleman said Thursday night he was unable to contact a Maryland Wal-Mart official and had no information on a possible new store in Hagerstown.

"I bought a nice, quiet retirement home on Abbey Lane, and I think it should stay a nice, quiet retirement home," said resident Catherine Evans.

Abbey Lane is near Day Road.

Resident Jose Rodriguez said the residents group, which is yet to be named, wants to put an end to talk of a possible rezoning so large businesses don't have the chance to locate on the property.

"We don't want any box stores in that location," said resident Jim Laird, who held a sign stating "Don't Let Greed Destroy Our Homes."

Laird said the group doesn't have future plans to protest, but that the residents might set up another demonstration in front of Hagerstown's City Hall.

"As a matter of fact, we may have to keep doing this until we get this right - until the City Council gets it right," Mount Aetna Road resident Stuart McClung said.

"We don't want a large retail development here," McClung said. "We don't want the noise. We don't want the traffic. We don't want the crime."

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