Hagerstown residents sound off on proposed development

October 16, 2007|By ERIN CUNNINGHAM

HAGERSTOWN - Residents who live near the American Legion on Northern Avenue say they know that the property will be developed.

They just want some input on what will be built near their homes when the property is sold.

During a public forum Monday night at Northern Middle School, residents said they were concerned that the current infrastructure could not support the proposed 41 residential units.

They talked about past flooding problems, a current traffic crisis and concerns that the character and value of their neighborhood would be diminished.

About 100 people attended the forum.

Kathleen Maher, planning director for the City of Hagerstown, said Jerry Spessard, who owns five lots near the American Legion, has requested that the city abandon its rights to a piece of property. Maher said Spessard wants to shift some of his lots away from a flood plain and increase the lot sizes to accommodate duplexes.


She said Spessard has an option on the American Legion's 7.5 acres.

The city's planning commission wanted to know what Spessard planned for the Legion property before deciding on whether to abandon rights to the other property, which is the area where Country Club Road dead ends. Spessard owns lots on both sides of that property, according to his attorney, Jason Divelbiss.

If the city does not give up its rights to that property, current plans would have to be revised, he said. Those plans include 41 residential units, with all but one being a duplex.

Many residents at Monday's meeting, which was led by the Washington County Community Mediation Center Inc., said they were concerned that duplexes would change the character of the community and reduce property values. Barbara Rice said there already are duplexes on Belview Avenue.

"This neighborhood has a pattern, and that pattern is single-family homes," said Bob Stouffer, who said he has lived on Woodland Way for about 16 years.

The American Legion property is zoned for single-family homes and duplexes.

Stouffer said he would like to see developers restricted to building only single-family homes in the neighborhood.

Dave Waters, who lives in the community, said he would prefer a mix of single-family homes and duplexes. He said he also was concerned about the density of the homes.

Like many others, Waters said he believed that the additional homes would only make traffic in his neighborhood worse.

"The traffic has to go somewhere, and if it goes somewhere, it's going to go on the existing roadways," he said. "And we live on the existing roadways."

Kandy Douglas said she believes the new homes on that property will only worsen existing problems with flooding and sewer backups.

"Can you guarantee that my property will not be flooded to build that property?" she asked.

She agreed with others who said the infrastructure was not available to put an additional 41 units on the American Legion property until some issues were corrected.

"The volume of traffic and speed of traffic is currently a problem and will get worse with more houses," Douglas said.

Divelbiss said that property values of the new homes would remain consistent with the existing properties. He said he believes that stormwater issues would remain the same or improve with new development and that inadequate infrastructure could prohibit the process.

"We have heard everybody loud and clear," Divelbiss said.

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