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Developers share plans for 29 acres of farmland across Eastern Boulevard

May 26, 2008|By ARNOLD S. PLATOU

Standing there atop a small knoll, you can smell the honeysuckle at your back and hear the birds in the tall trees whose branches wave in a breeze like brushes against the blue sky.

Standing there, while you lean on the hollow white vinyl rails of the fence lining the stormwater basin carved out of the hill below, you see the buildings lining the other side of Hagerstown's Eastern Boulevard like colored pieces on a Monopoly board.

And lifting your gaze, you can still see the green treetops on the fields out beyond and the green-blue beauty of South Mountain along the horizon.

Developers Tony Dahbura and his father, Bud, do not know yet what they are going to do with the five acres of scrub and woodland that grows the honeysuckle.

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Developers Trey Alter and his father, Wayne, have begun work in their almost 15-acre field on the same side of Eastern Boulevard. A new office for the Orrstown Bank is under construction, and lots for more offices are marked off with stakes, bearing fluorescent orange pennants.

But the big news is what developers David Lyles and Paul Crampton have just now begun building on the 29 acres of farmland across Eastern and behind the Food Lion grocery.

Business park plans

Lyles and Crampton, fresh off approval by the Hagerstown Planning Commission, have moved heavy machinery onto the land, scraping away its grasses to make way for the roads, drainage lines and utility pipelines needed for the Light Business Park they are building.

"What we have planned is what has been similarly built along Eastern Boulevard," Crampton said last week. "We intend a commercial development, more to the professional side.

"Offices for, like, doctors or dentists or eyecare professionals. We've had a lot of interest in that realm from some of these guys that would like to build their own building and own it," Crampton said.

Earlier this month, the city planning commission gave the developers an approval that allows them to shape the land, build roads and lay in utilities. The land was already zoned for commercial use.

As the business park is developed, the proposed use of each of the 18 lots that are planned will have to be approved to ensure it fits the zoning, city Zoning Administrator Stephen Bockmiller said.

Crampton said Light Business Park is named in honor of Aaron Light Jr. and his wife, Terri, who bought the 29 acres, together with 48 more on both sides of what is now Eastern Boulevard in 1982.

At the time, the newlyweds bought the land for $130,000 as an investment to pay for college educations for the children they hoped to have someday.

That it did, but the land also has become a major player in the development that is changing the area along Eastern Boulevard between Dual Highway to the south and Jefferson Boulevard to the north.

In 1987, two businessmen paid the Lights $144,000 just for seven of the acres. A Food Lion and a car wash are there now.

A few years after Aaron Light died in 1999 and their children were ready for college, Terri Light began selling the remaining land.

About 34 acres across Eastern Boulevard from Food Lion were sold to the Alters for about $1.3 million. A neighboring five-acre tract went to the Dahburas for $200,000. Bits of land here and there went to the city and Allegheny Power for rights-of-way.

And, just two years ago, Lyles paid $1.3 million for the final 29 acres.

A long-term project

Crampton, who joined Lyles in the project, said he envisions the business park taking 10 years to fully develop. "I mean, it's 18 lots. If we do two or three a year... It's all dependent upon the economy and how things go after the election."

A land-clearing crew began working on the ground about two weeks ago, he said. The developers are hoping to finish putting in the streets and other basics for the first lots by late October but, he said, "I don't see any building construction until the first of the year at the earliest."

In all, he said, the project will probably cost "in the $5 million range, plus the original purchase price."

Besides Food Lion, the land lays behind Ewing Oil Co.'s big fuel tanks and several homes along Jefferson Boulevard.

"A very limited access road that will have gates" and will be for emergency vehicles only will lead to the property between a house and a business on Jefferson Boulevard, he said.

But the main access for regular traffic in and out of the business park will be a street that will be built to tie into an existing road behind the Eddie's Tires store that leads to Eastern Boulevard, he said.

On the Jefferson Boulevard side of the property, Crampton said there will be a buffer zone between the residential properties and the business park.

Plans call for the buffer to be 40 feet wide, Bockmiller said. "Part of that area is heavily grown up and will remain untouched. And part of that... will be planted with trees and allowed to grow up over time," he said.

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