City planners give nod to stadium site

January 12, 2006|by ANDREW SCHOTZ


Despite complaints of late details and ill-advised seating, the Hagerstown Planning Commission voted 5-1 Wednesday to approve a high school stadium site plan, allowing excavation to begin.

Planning commission member Kristin B. Aleshire criticized representatives of Mike Callas Stadium at North Hagerstown High School for not submitting project details in advance.

Aleshire, who voted no, said he didn't see the site plan until the meeting.

"We're approving something we haven't really seen," he said, noting that, overall, he supports the stadium.

Typically, applicants submit plans several days before meetings, giving the city time to distribute them to commission members, according to Planning Director Kathleen Maher.


Commission Chairman Douglas S. Wright Jr., who voted in favor, later added his own criticism, calling confusion about a basic detail - seating capacity - "embarrassing."

In a memo to commission members, Stephen R. Bockmiller, the city's development planner/zoning administrator, wrote that the proposal is a 1,864-seat stadium near the school, requiring 622 parking spaces.

Commission members stopped short, confused, during the meeting when Brent Feight of Bushey Feight Morin Architects Inc. of Hagerstown - which is designing the stadium - said it only has 1,000 seats as proposed.

If visiting bleachers are added later, the stadium would have about 1,800 seats, Feight said.

After briefly consulting with other project representatives, Feight told the commission that he was mistaken and 1,864 is the correct number of seats as proposed.

Later in the meeting, after stadium representatives were gone, Wright said "high-paid people" should have known the project better.

"That was just absurd," he said.

A capital campaign for the stadium project officially began in October 2004. A committee set the fundraising goal at $2.3 million.

Now, the project cost stands at $3.5 million.

Committee member Jim Brown said last month that the committee has obtained $3.1 million in pledges from public and private sources.

At Tuesday's meeting, Rodney Turnbough, the Washington County Board of Education's director of facilities, told the planning commission that some donors pledged money with the understanding that the stadium would be built by this fall, which is why the project needs to progress quickly.

The planning commission approved the site plan on Wednesday on the condition that certain changes be made.

Bockmiller's memo says the North High site has 531 parking spaces, or 91 fewer than what the city's zoning ordinance requires for the stadium.

The memo says the school system reported making a deal to use 118 spaces at the Washington County Health Department next door, for a total of 649.

However, the city's Planning Department said it discovered that 29 of the 118 spaces are partly or entirely on adjacent nursing home property, leaving the school system two parking spaces short of the minimum.

Turnbough said the school system will make sure there are two more spaces.

The project plans will return to the planning commission later for further review and approval.

Commission member James W. Stone questioned why only one set of bleachers is part of the plan. He said it's a bad idea to mix opposing fans at football games.

"It seems that not having visitor seating is like not having parking," he said.

Turnbough said there might not be money for a second set of bleachers to start, but the land will be graded so they can be added later.

Asked by Wright if the school system would shut down the stadium if there were security concerns, Turnbough said it would.

"We can't afford to have a riot," Turnbough said. "We can't afford to have people getting hurt."

How they voted

The Hagerstown Planning Commission voted 5-1 on Wednesday to approve a site plan for Mike Callas Stadium at North Hagerstown High School

Douglas S. Wright Jr. yes

Martin E. Brubaker yes

Dennis C. Miller yes

James W. Stone yes

F. Christian Wright IV yes

Kristin B. Aleshire no

Fred Nugent absent

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