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Howell Road rezoning OK'd

March 01, 2006|By DANIEL J. SERNOVITZ

HAGERSTOWN - The Hagerstown City Council on Tuesday narrowly passed a request to rezone land off Howell Road ? a request that might allow Strategic Resources LLC of Highland, Md., to build as many as 243 town houses on the 28-acre, industrially zoned property.

City Councilwoman Kelly S. Cromer cast the deciding vote in the 3-2 decision, though she said she agreed with several arguments council members Kristin B. Aleshire and Penny M. Nigh raised in opposition to the change.

"This has been a very hard decision for me to make, which way to go with this. It was made harder knowing I represent the swing vote; two for, two against," she said.

Council members Lewis C. Metzner and Alesia D. Parson-McBean voted with Cromer for the change.

The land is owned by Dr. Richard Harrison of Hagerstown. Harrison also owns another 153 acres of industrially zoned land adjacent to the 28 acres Strategic Resources wanted rezoned.

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Aleshire and Nigh have said they feared allowing the change would leave the city vulnerable to other developers asking for the remainder of the land be changed to residential zoning.

City staff members, including Planning Director Kathleen A. Maher, supported the change. As part of its request, Strategic Resources has proposed to build a new road connecting U.S. 40 to Edgewood Drive, which Maher said would create better access to both the 28 acres Strategic Resources wanted to build on and the remaining 153 acres.

The city annexed the Harrison property in 1962 and agreed not to collect taxes on the land until it was developed. The city has estimated it could collect as much as $418,950 in property taxes if the 28-acre parcel is rezoned and as many as 175 houses are built there.

Cromer said she is worried about other developers asking the council to rezone the remaining 153 acres, and she believes the city should do what it can to attract both industries and jobs to Hagerstown. She also said she is worried about the impact the development will have on the frequently congested intersection of U.S. 40 and Edgewood Drive.

After voicing her concerns, Cromer said lost tax revenue and the developer's commitment to build the new road were two of the reasons she voted to support the request. She also said she agrees with Maher that, once the road is built, it is more likely the remaining 153 acres will be developed with an industrial use.

Aleshire and Nigh renewed their objections to the plan. Nigh said she is worried the city could be forced to build the road, even though the developer has committed to doing so, if Strategic Resources' plans fall through.

"I've got a big problem with this, OK, for the sake of a dollar," Nigh said. "What I don't want to see happen is the responsibility of the citizens to pay for this road."

As part of the rezoning, the developer will need to build a portion of the new road, from Howell Road to South Edgewood Drive, before the city will approve any site development plans. It will also need to conduct a comprehensive traffic impact study and might be required to pay for improvements the study identifies.

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