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Opponents of shopping center near Hagerstown want more lucrative jobs for area

Many are worried about congestion from proposed development at I-70 and U.S. 40

Many are worried about congestion from proposed development at I-70 and U.S. 40

June 17, 2008|By HEATHER KEELS

WASHINGTON COUNTY -- Neighbors of a proposed shopping center at the intersection of Interstate 70 and U.S. 40 said Monday night they are not opposed to developing that land, but would like to see it go to a company that would bring biotechnology, defense or other lucrative jobs to the area.

"It's going to have to be developed at some point," said Tina Kurtz, 40, whose Landis Road home backs up to the site where Annapolis-based developer Petrie Ross Ventures wants to build a shopping, entertainment and lodging complex called Hagerstown Towne Centre. "We just need it to be the kind (of development) that's good long-term for Washington County."

Plans for the center include a wholesale club, department store, movie theater, home-improvement store and two hotels. Developers have said it would bring about 9,000 permanent jobs to the Hagerstown area, but opponents who gathered Monday night to discuss the project argued the type of jobs it would bring are too temporary and low-paying to make a positive impact on the local economy.

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"We need jobs that keep our Washington County residents here," Kurtz said. "Retail jobs and part-time movie theater jobs aren't going to do it."

Instead, opponents said the shopping center would only serve to congest traffic, strain the city's water supply and bring safety hazards and late-night disruptions to currently peaceful neighborhoods.

Under the developer's plans, Landis Road would become one of the access points for the shopping center, and residents worry that will bring more traffic than the residential street can handle.

"This is going to be a shortcut to the next Wal-Mart," complained Jeff Britton, 26, a new father who bought a house on Londontowne Court, just north of the proposed shopping center, less than a year ago.

"When I'm trying to teach my daughter to ride her bike, I've got to be concerned with some teenager who's maybe 10 minutes late to work tearing through here," Britton said.

Landis Road resident Sofia Wright had similar concerns.

"We picked this area because it was quiet and it was country," said Wright, 31, who has a 2-year-old and another child on the way.

Neighbors are also worried about the center's affect on their home values and taxes, burdens they say they couldn't bear given the current state of the economy.

Kurtz said opponents will encourage city and county officials to look at the bigger picture and keep long-term sustainable growth in mind before giving the center a green light.

"We can't look toward overnight plans that just seem to be quick and easy," she said.

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