Island amid change

Home lives surrounded by commercial development

Home lives surrounded by commercial development

September 04, 2005|By JULIE E. GREENE

HALFWAY - Todd Hull is waiting for the day when a business will offer him good money for the property his home sits on along Hopewell Road, just south of Halfway Boulevard.

Next door, retiree Berkley Conrad is not happy with how his once rural neighborhood turned into a high-traffic area with several distribution centers and other businesses, but it has been home for more than 50 years.

On the other side of Conrad's Colonial-style house is the mobile home he set up for his mother to live in. Now it is home to the Stottlemeyers.


Joyce Stottlemeyer considers the homes lined together in front of Staples Distribution Center a little oasis and an improvement from when she lived on a busy Williamsport street. With no front yard on Artisan Street, only a sidewalk separated her home from heavy traffic.

Danny Bender, who two years ago moved into the southern most house of the four homes, likes his new home just fine. He finds it nice the way his neighbors aren't right there next door, There's some space between the homes.

Looking at a map of Hopewell Valley, Washington County Chief Engineer Terry McGee said he can see houses here or there next to vacant land where private developers could one day build commercial or industrial businesses.

Much of the valley hasn't been developed yet but could be in the next two decades as the county plans to extend Halfway Boulevard to Md. 63 and have Newgate Boulevard cut north to U.S. 40, county officials said.

Some developers near small enclaves of homes might offer to buy the houses, but some might not, McGee said.

Conrad and Hull aren't sure why Staples didn't offer to buy their houses.

Staples corporate spokesman Owen Davis said that was so long ago he couldn't find an answer either.

Sharon Disque, who was working for the Hagerstown-Washington County Economic Development Commission at the time Staples built its distribution center in 1996, said, as far as she knew, purchasing the homes wasn't considered because the developer already had enough land to accommodate Staples' plans.

Residential island

So here they are, a residential island amidst a sea of traffic and economic development.

The sounds of an early morning train, crickets and birds have been joined by those of speeding traffic, slamming doors, loud car stereos and squealing tires, the residents said.

Conrad, Hull, Bender and Stottlemeyer haven't complained to the local government or companies about the noise and traffic recently. They just brought it up when asked by a reporter about the good and bad of being surrounded by commercial and industrial development.

They've gotten used to much of the noise. It's become white noise in the background of their lives.

But there are sounds that still startle them.

Like the slamming of the tractor-trailer doors at the Staples guard shack an estimated 150 yards behind Hull's home.

Davis said trucks entering and leaving the property must open their back doors at the guard shack for inspection for security reasons. The center, which employs about 650 people, has an average of 200 trucks a day that enter and exit the property. The center operates 24 hours a day except for 7 p.m. Saturday to 7 p.m. Sunday when it closes, unless it's a peak business season such as back-to-school time, Davis said.

The number of trucks is expected to increase by six or seven a day once a 180,000-square-foot expansion is complete that will bring the center's size to 1 million square feet, Davis said.

Hull's biggest complaint is the squealing of tires and honking of horns by employees when shifts change. The driveway to Staples is about 40 yards north of his property.

The neighbors have noticed the Washington County Sheriff's Department has been watching for speeders on Hopewell Road recently. The road gets a lot of traffic from businesses, including the distribution centers along Hunters Green Parkway, and people going to Valley Mall.

First Sgt. Bob Leatherman said he didn't know how fast traffic had been clocked, but some of the residents claim traffic has gone as fast as 50 or 60 mph or more in the 30 mph zone.

Conrad, 80, won't walk across the street to AC&T's offices to pay his gas bill because of speeding traffic coming over a nearby hill. Instead he drives over in his Chevy Lumina or truck.

"It's the safest way to get across the road," he said.

And Hull, 41, watches over his daughters as they ride their bicycles in a parking lot that is next to his home and abuts Hopewell Road.

The oldest of his daughters is 10 so all three children have grown up amidst the business development and are accustomed to it, he said.

It's home

Even 10 years ago, when there were several businesses along Hopewell Road but no big distribution centers or large industrial operations, the neighborhood was "pretty calm," Hull said.

Hull was attracted to the 11520 Hopewell Road house for sale in 1995 for its location.

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