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Developer faces opposition

November 09, 2004|by BRIAN SHAPPELL

shappell@herald-mail.com

A half-dozen area residents, including a Hagerstown City Councilman, spoke out Monday against a developer's request to open the door to housing and retail businesses in an area designed to attract research and technology jobs.

The developer's senior vice president said the company will do just that after concerns were aired that mixing zoning uses there would be a detriment to that goal.

The Washington County Planning Commission and County Commissioners held a joint hearing Monday to discuss an application by the John Akridge Development Co. of Washington, D.C., for a zoning text amendment. The company wants zoning language to be altered to allow additional uses at Friendship Technology Park, south of Interstate 70 on both sides of Downsville Pike.

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Joseph Svatos, Akridge's senior vice president, said the company has preliminary plans to buy property there and build housing units, offices, retail businesses and a hotel.

J. Michael Nye of Hagerstown was among several attending the meeting who spoke against granting the change.

"Allowing housing in the ORT (Office, Research and Technology zone) is against good zoning and the planning management to attract jobs and high-tech opportunities."

The commissioners created the new zoning district in October 2002 and then voted to apply the zone to Friendship Technology Park. The zoning district allows medical and corporate offices, and technology, research and development-based businesses and institutions.

Planning Director Michael Thompson said Friday that Akridge Development is asking that a Planned Unit Development (PUD) zoning overlay designation be allowed on the Office, Research and Technology zoning district, which is what Friendship Technology Park is zoned. The PUD designation would allow mixed uses in the zone.

Hagerstown Councilman Kristin Aleshire said the technology park is the best location for bringing to Hagerstown the type of high-paying technology jobs that would keep educated city natives closer to home. Aleshire asked the commissioners and planning commission members to reject the application.

"I look at that site right along (Interstate) 70 and I think to myself, 'why do we need a thousand more homes and a grocery store?'" Aleshire said.

Svatos said Akridge has extensive experience in building facilities for the high-tech companies the residents were speaking about Monday. He said Akridge has worked to bring such facilities to areas including Gaithersburg, Md., and Loudoun County, Va.

Svatos said "no one is better qualified" for the task in the Washington, D.C., area.

"The companies that have the well-educated work force, which is what we're trying to attract, want to be in a place where there is a sense of place," he said. "That's what we're trying to do here."

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