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FAA wants historical farm near Hagerstown airport demolished

Structures less than 500 feet from new runway extension

Structures less than 500 feet from new runway extension

December 03, 2007|By JOSHUA BOWMAN

HAGERSTOWN - It sits below grade, hidden from sight by berms constructed to support the airport's new runway.

But officials at Hagerstown Regional Airport and several federal agencies are keenly aware of the Brumbaugh-Kendle-Grove farmstead.

The cluster of farm buildings near U.S. 11 and Air View Road has stymied efforts by the federal government to clear the land around the airport.

The Federal Aviation Administration, U.S. Transportation Security Administration and U.S. Secret Service all want the structures to be demolished. They say the vacant buildings, which are less than 500 feet from the airport's new runway extension, pose a threat to airport security.

But the farmstead has been designated a historic place by the Maryland Historical Trust, and local preservation advocates are demanding that the government abide by federal regulations that require it to exhaust all other options before destroying historic properties.

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"We simply want those laws to be followed. This is a really unique property and it would be a shame to see it destroyed," said Pat Schooley, secretary for the Washington County Historical Advisory Committee.

The county, with federal assistance, has acquired several parcels of land to create a "buffer area" around the airport, according to Hagerstown Regional Airport Manager Carolyn S. Motz.

"It's very common; it's what airports do," Motz said.

But the practice becomes difficult when the land includes historic structures.

The Federal National Historic Preservation Act requires government agencies to try to avoid, reduce or mitigate damage to historic properties near development sites.

The farmstead, which includes a late-19th-century brick house, an 18th-century smokehouse and a rare pierced-brick barn, was given historical designation in 2001.

Schooley and Committee Chairman Ralph Young met with the Washington County Commissioners earlier this month to recommend options for saving the buildings. They said possibilities include finding someone to live in the house, using it for a museum and relocating it.

The airport commissioned a survey of the Brumbaugh-Kendle-Grove property in 2004.

The survey states that "the farmhouse is not inhabitable in its current condition, and would require costly and substantial repairs to become decent, safe and sanitary."

URS Corp., a California-based engineering firm, estimated the cost of rehabilitating the house at $350,000, according to the airport's survey.

Federal programs exist that would pay to restore the buildings and allow someone to live in the house rent-free in return for maintaining the property. But the FAA is opposed to that option because it would hinder future airport-related development on the land.

The federal government paid 90 percent of the cost to buy the land in 1999, in part so it would be available for development. If county officials decided to allow a curator to live in the house, those funds would have to be paid back.

"If someone wanted to move the house, we'd be delighted," Motz said.

However, she said the FAA would only pay part of the cost of relocating the structures.

URS Corp. estimated it would cost $300,000 to relocate the house, in addition to the $350,000 to rehabilitate it.

Schooley agreed there is no obvious solution.

"I understand security risks, I really do," she said. "And it's probably going to take someone who is willing to move this house to save it. I just hope we can find someone who will pay for it."

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