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Opinions divided on motives for party

May 24, 2007|by DAN DEARTH

HAGERSTOWN - The executive director of The Maryland Theatre defended a Hagerstown developer during Tuesday's City Council meeting after some residents and downtown business owners attacked the developer's plans to throw a party this fall in the Arts and Entertainment District.

Brian Sullivan said Mike Deming, president of Demcore Development and organizer of the party known as Downtown Live, wasn't the schemer that people suggested.

Instead of Deming using Downtown Live to benefit financially as his opponents charged, Sullivan said the developer donated $5,000 of the event's proceeds in 2006 to the theater.

Deming, who introduced Downtown Live last year, recently asked the council for permission to waive open-container laws and block off some of the city's downtown streets to hold the event Oct. 20.

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Before Sullivan spoke, several people opposed to Downtown Live asked the council to reject the event, saying Deming uses it to pad his pockets.

In addition, the people who spoke said Downtown Live spawns drunken brawls, loud music and other negative things.

East Washington Street resident Mike Davis said he and several of his neighbors, especially the elderly, were against Downtown Live.

Business owners also expressed disapproval.

"This event essentially attempts to foist the burdens of a private, for-profit enterprise onto the Hagerstown citizens and business community while Demcore reaps the benefits," said Charles R. Stewart, a downtown businessman. "If Demcore wishes to host a rock concert/boozefest, Demcore should rent an appropriate facility, pay for the necessary help, and be responsible for all preparation and cleanup."

As Stewart and other people spoke to the council, Deming sat silently in the audience. After the meeting, he declined to comment.

Valerie Minteer, owner of Bones & Cones Dessertery at 2 S. Potomac St., said the stage for live bands was placed almost directly in front of her store's door last year, making it hard for customers to enter.

The music was so loud it caused shelving in the store to fall, she said.

"This is a private rock concert that should be held in a private location," she said. "Demcore is not the only business in downtown Hagerstown ... It is not acceptable to compel downtown business(es) to close their doors for a day so Demcore can make a profit."

Sullivan disagreed, saying Deming shares the profits and betters the community by offering a wide variety of live music.

"It shows people downtown Hagerstown," he said.

After hearing people speak, the City Council agreed to table a motion, that if passed, would have given Deming permission to throw the party.

"This shows that the system does work," Councilwoman Kelly S. Cromer said. "We need to look at this more in my opinion ... We have to have more discussion with Demcore."

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