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Annexation request stalls, delaying proposed shopping center on edge of Hagerstown

June 11, 2008|By JOSHUA BOWMAN

WASHINGTON COUNTY -- The Washington County Commissioners on Tuesday tabled an annexation request from the City of Hagerstown, delaying at least temporarily the approval of one of two shopping centers proposed for the eastern edge of Hagerstown.

Some of the commissioners said they would like more information before they decide whether to give what is called express approval to the annexation of 142 acres at the northeast corner of Interstate 70 and U.S. 40.

The developer of the shopping center, Petrie Ross Ventures, has asked the city to annex the property so it can be connected to the city's sewer and water systems.

Express approval is not necessary for the property to be annexed into the city but would allow the shopping center to be built more quickly.

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County Commissioners President John F. Barr said Tuesday that the commissioners will take up the matter again but did not set a date for another discussion.

City Planning Director Kathleen Maher said the city is waiting for the county to make a decision on the annexation and will probably have to delay its vote on the proposal.

Maher said she had hoped to get the annexation on the city council's agenda in July.

"I don't see that happening now," Maher said.

If the county refuses to grant express approval, the city could annex the property but could not develop it outside the limitations of the county's current zoning for five years.

The county's zoning on the property would not allow a shopping center to be built there.

Different developers have proposed similar shopping centers at the northeast and southeast corners of the intersection. Both proposed centers include retail space, a cinema and hotels.

The development considered Tuesday by the commissioners, called Hagerstown Towne Centre, would also include office space.

Many officials have said the intersection will not support both centers and think the first project to be approved will be the one that is built.

The Washington County Planning Commission has reviewed preliminary plans for the other proposal, called Hagerstown Gateway, which is being developed by Faison Enterprises.

That development is planned for property that is zoned for commercial use, so it would not need express approval to be annexed.

Commissioner James F. Kercheval said Tuesday he was disappointed that county staff had not made recommendations on the annexation for Hagerstown Towne Centre.

"Basically, I have comments from the developer. That's hardly equivalent to the preliminary consultation I had asked for," Kercheval said.

Planning Director Michael C. Thompson said the county has not received detailed plans for the Hagerstown Towne Centre proposal.

Some commissioners said they wanted more information about the developer's plans for road improvements, a second access to the center, and how much capacity is available in the city's water and sewer systems, among other things.

Maher said Tuesday that it is her understanding that Petrie Ross Ventures will work with county staff on a concept plan for Hagerstown Towne Centre before the request goes back to the commissioners.

During Tuesday's meeting, Commissioner Kristin B. Aleshire repeated comments he has made at other meetings about the shopping centers, saying county and city officials need to talk about how the intersection should be developed, taking both proposals into account.

"I believe a shopping center, some type of shopping center, will go out in this location. I don't have a huge problem with the zoning from the city. However, I don't feel we should be doing this in a vacuum, either," Aleshire said.

"And it's difficult for me to write a blank check without those conversations taking place."

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