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The Howell Road rezoning

January 19, 2006

A majority of the Hagerstown City Council is mulling a possible zoning change for 28 acres of light industrial land off Howell Road, despite the objections of two members who say it would hurt the city's economic-development efforts.

In our view, council members Kristen Aleshire and Penny Nigh would have a better chance of persuading their counterparts if they detail what sort of development they have in mind.

The land in question is owned by Dr. Richard Harrison. It's located next to another 153 acres he owns that would retain light industrial zoning.

Aleshire and Nigh said they felt the property, annexed into the city in 1962, is the largest remaining potential economic development site in the city.

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Kathleen Maher, the city's planning director, supports the idea that 28-acre tract was mistakenly zoned light industrial when it was annexed.

On the other hand, City Attorney John Urner said such a rezoning would open the city to charges that it illegally spot-zoned the property.

To say that Urner is an experienced hand in zoning matters is like saying that the Orioles' Cal Ripken has played in a few baseball games. The council should not disregard his advice lightly.

What all the parties involved should do is look at what could be placed on the site with its current zoning.

Maher noted that building 175 town houses there would generate $418,950 in annual tax revenues.

Could light industrial or office use generate more money, without requiring as many services? It's a fair question that needs to be answered before the council takes its final vote.

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