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Hagerstown, county to discuss plans for shopping centers

October 08, 2008|By DAN DEARTH

HAGERSTOWN -- The Hagerstown City Council and the Washington County Commissioners will meet next week to discuss separate proposals from two developers who want to build shopping centers near the intersection of Interstate 70 and U.S. 40.

Councilman Lewis C. Metzner said during a Tuesday work session that the issue should be put on the agenda of a joint meeting between the two bodies next week. The council and commissioners have discussed the matter at length, Metzner said, but never together.

"I'm at the point where I do not plan on taking any action ... until we meet with the county," Metzner said. "... It's time both of these bodies started showing their cards."

Phillip Ross of Petrie Ross Ventures, a mid-Atlantic development firm, said earlier this year that he wants to build, among other things, hotels, a shopping center, a movie theater and office space on about 142 acres of land at the northeast corner of the intersection. The development would be built on land that is more commonly known as the Doub Farm.

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Ross' proposal met resistance earlier this year from residents living in that area who said the development would be too close to their homes and cause traffic problems.

Faison Enterprises, a development company based in North Carolina, has proposed building at the southeast corner of the intersection a shopping center that would be anchored by Kerasotes ShowPlace Theatres and a Costco Wholesale Club.

The Faison proposal, which would cover about 140 acres, would include a sporting-goods store and a large-scale supermarket, the company said in a July press release.

Councilman Martin E. Brubaker said Ross has guaranteed several perks, including the structural improvement of U.S. 40 near the intersection, in exchange for being given permission to build. In addition, the city would be able to pull in extra tax dollars, Brubaker said, if the council annexed the land.

Brubaker said before he makes a decision, he would like to give Faison a chance to at least match Ross' offer.

"I will fight to get as much advantage for the city," Brubaker said.

For the Ross plan to go forward, the county commissioners would have to grant express approval, or permission to rezone the land so a shopping center and office space could be built. The land currently is zoned for commercial and residential use.

If the commissioners fail to grant express approval, Ross' proposal would have to be put on hold for five years to satisfy a state mandate, said Stuart Bass, comprehensive planner for the City of Hagerstown.

City Planning Director Kathleen Maher gave several reasons the city could benefit by annexing the Doub Farm property. Among those reasons was Ross' commitment to improve U.S. 40.

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