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Concern voiced over railroad's proposed lot

June 06, 2007|by JOSHUA BOWMAN and DAN DEARTH

HAGERSTOWN - Close to 30 residents attended a Hagerstown City Council public hearing Tuesday to show their opposition to Norfolk Southern railroad's plans to develop 95 acres of land near the intersection of Maryland Avenue and Oak Ridge Drive.

The railroad wants to build a large parking lot there to keep new vehicles that would be shipped in by train and out by truck.

Holly Terrace resident Greg Nearchos said he was concerned the railroad's plan would increase noise and involve operating hours that might extend into the early morning when people are trying to sleep.

Nearchos and his neighbors collected a petition with about 150 signatures that opposes the parking lot, he said.

"What we're doing is to ask you to work with us and help us out," he told the council.

Mayor Robert E. Bruchey II said the council could annex the land into the city. If that happens, city officials would have an easier time regulating Norfolk Southern's actions, he said.

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Marion Street resident Richard Kennedy said the railroad already has excavated about 25 acres of trees from the land.

The railroad has the attitude that it can do whatever it wants, said Kennedy, a former 25-year railroad employee.

Councilwoman Penny M. Nigh and Councilman Lewis C. Metzner agreed.

"None of us trust the railroad," Metzner said.

Douglas Payne, also of Marion Street, said he was worried that the railroad would let chemical tankers sit on the tracks.

In addition, he said criminals would be drawn to the parking lot to steal parts from the vehicles.

"You're going to have to have a lot of security back there," Payne said.

Earlier Tuesday, the Washington County Commissioners discussed many of the things that the council did later that afternoon, and tabled a decision on the matter.

"There are too many unknowns," Commissioner James F. Kercheval said.

The commissioners agreed to send a letter to the city with suggestions about how to minimize the project's impact on nearby residents.

The suggestions included screening the property on its western and southern boundaries, ensuring that lighting on the property does not spill over into residential areas, completing a traffic study and looking at the hours of operation to minimize noise from the property on residents.

- Staff writer Andrew Schotz contributed to this story

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