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Hagerstown City Council vote could allow shopping center

April 22, 2008|By DAN DEARTH

HAGERSTOWN -- About 80 people attended the Hagerstown City Council meeting on Tuesday night to learn more during a public hearing about the annexation of the Doub Farm property at the intersection of U.S. 40 and Interstate 70.

The hearing lasted past 10 p.m.

After the meeting, the City Council voted 4-1 to adopt the city's comprehensive plan, which would allow the property to be zoned for commercial and professional office use.

Councilman Lewis C. Metzner said the project -- in which developer Phillip Ross has expressed interest in building a $242 million shopping center -- is far from a done deal. The property is in Washington County, meaning the county commissioners would have to make the final decision, he said.

The council's decision to adopt the zoning for the comprehensive plan would allow a shopping center to be built along with business offices, but the plan could be changed at any time, Councilman Martin Brubaker said.

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"There's a lot of work," he said. "That doesn't guarantee a shopping center will happen."

During the public hearing, only two people spoke in favor of the project.

"Hagerstown is growing," Links View Drive resident Anne Pandolfi said. "Change is inevitable. We should embrace it."

Several others -- mostly residents who live in that area -- said the plan was ridiculous.

Jeff Taylor, a resident of Landis Road, told the council members to put themselves in the shoes of the residents who would be affected by the development.

"You got to be smart about it, and this isn't smart," he said.

Muquit Malik said a shopping center would cause road congestion and noise, disrupting prayers at a nearby mosque.

A few of the opponents said the development would decrease property values.

"We'll be forced to move," Londontowne Court resident Alison Lynn said.

Ross, of Petrie Ross Ventures, a mid-Atlantic developing firm, said the development would include a shopping center on about 120 acres of land in the northeast corner of the intersection and businesses offices on about 20 acres of land to the immediate east.

The shopping center portion would include anchor stores, smaller retail shops, a movie theater and two hotels, he said. The development would bring roughly 9,000 jobs to the area.

Councilwoman Kelly S. Cromer asked Ross to give her a breakdown on the kind of jobs that would be available. After trying to answer Cromer's question, Ross said he would have to get back to her.

To show Ross' commitment, he would agree to widening U.S. 40 to six lanes in the area of the development, and pay for water and sewer extensions to the buildings, among other things, said Bruce Dean, an attorney representing Ross.

Dean said Ross would give $50,000 a year for five years to the city to help revitalize the downtown, an area in which the City Council has tried to stimulate economic growth.

The $50,000 stipend was met with jeers from some of the audience.

Several opponents of the development said the retail would take away from the downtown, rather than help it.

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