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Members of council stab downtown booster in back

June 08, 2007

Two members of Hagerstown's City Council pulled the welcome mat out from under developer Don Bowman this week, as he sought a liquor license that would allow him to sell carry-out beverages at a store near the downtown restaurant he's building.

It's a slap in the face for a developer who has never publicly criticized the city government, even though a previous council rejected his proposal to renovate the Baldwin House, now the site of the University System of Maryland's downtown campus.

It wasn't such a pretty building when Bowman made his proposal. In fact, it was a crumbling ruin with a leaky roof and serious structural problems that eventually cost millions in taxpayer dollars to repair.

But Bowman was ready to step up then with private funding, just as he has stepped up to renovate another troubled structure, the old Tri-State Electric building on South Potomac Street.

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Just like Demcore Development's Mike Deming, Bowman could easily spend his money elsewhere, with much less risk.

Things might be looking up in downtown, but it's still a work in progress.

If Councilmembers Penny Nigh and Alesia Parson-McBean, who questioned the license transfer, can't applaud Bowman's efforts, they should at least give him their quiet support.

The idea that Bowman, who is a pillar of the community and a successful businessman, would allow his reputation to be besmirched by running anything less than a first-class establishment is ludicrous.

In fact, through his service on various boards, including the Hagerstown-Washington County Economic Development Commission and a variety of nonprofits, Bowman has done more for Hagerstown than anyone will ever know.

Nor has he criticized councils, past or present, even when he had more than enough reason to do so. Such criticism, he knows, might hurt downtown's chances of attracting other investment.

We can only hope other investors won't be deterred by the actions of a few council members.

To his credit, Mayor Robert Bruchey supported the license transfer. We recommend that all council members follow his lead and extend a helping hand, as opposed to giving those who would help downtown another slap in the face.

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