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Residents concerned about annexation

April 27, 2005|BY GREGORY T. SIMMONS

HAGERSTOWN

A group of neighbors who live in the city's North End near a proposed housing development told the Hagerstown City Council on Tuesday that they were concerned about traffic, environmental damage and school overcrowding.

"The people that are paying the taxes to this city are telling you this is not a good deal," city resident Stephen Costello said during a public hearing Tuesday night. "I certainly hope that you'll consider opposing this plan."

The public hearing was to consider the proposal to expand the city's boundary to include a 52-acre property off Haven Road, near Pennsylvania Avenue.

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Kenneth Jordan, who owns the 54-acre property, has asked for the land to be annexed. Smart Growth Investments LLC, an Annapolis, Md., development firm, has purchased a contract to buy the land from Jordan, according to a city document.

Under the annexation proposal, development company Smart Growth Investments would agree to build no more than 450 homes.

Krista McGowan, a Frederick, Md.-based attorney who represented Jordan at Tuesday's hearing, told the council that the developer would build "substantially" fewer homes than what the current zoning allows.

The land, which is currently in the county, is zoned for high-density residential use. McGowan told the council that would allow for 800 to 1,000 homes to be built.

People who live near the proposed site, however, told the council they were concerned.

Christi Hatcher, a Kensington Drive resident, said she believed the new development "will adversely impact everyone." She said local schools are overburdened, roads are crowded "and here come 900 more cars emanating from 450 new homes ... desperate to get to a traffic light."

Sharon Womack, a Fairchild Avenue resident, said she was concerned about the trees that are on the property and how losing them will change her way of life.

The development "would totally change the environmental culture" of the neighborhood, Womack said. "I'm for annexation, but ... if it becomes too congested, I would not see it the same way, and I would consider moving."

After the residents spoke, Councilman Kristin B. Aleshire said he would like several questions answered before the council takes a vote on the annexation proposal, including whether the county's zoning would allow up to 1,000 homes on the property and how heavily roads and schools would be affected by the proposal.

Aleshire told the audience that "I am a firm believer that annexation of land into the city limits does give the city greater control over how the development occurs."

The council is expected to take up the proposed agreement at a meeting next month. The agreement already has been introduced, and could be approved at the meeting.

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