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Decision expected soon on proposed shopping center near Hagerstown

October 15, 2008|By JOSHUA BOWMAN

WASHINGTON COUNTY -- The fate of a large shopping center proposed on what is known as the Doub Farm property could be decided in the next 30 days.

The Hagerstown City Council on Tuesday asked the Washington County Commissioners to decide within a month if they support an annexation that is needed to build a shopping center, called Hagerstown Towne Centre, on the property.

Under county law, if the commissioners do not officially support the annexation, the shopping center could not be built for five years.

Another shopping center, called Hagerstown Gateway, has been proposed for the area, and many officials have said it is unlikely that the area could support both projects.

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Hagerstown Gateway technically would not need to be annexed to begin construction, though the developer likely would ask for annexation for water and sewer service.

Both shopping centers are large "big box" style complexes with about 850,000 square feet of space each.

Both centers would contain a theater, hotels, restaurants and several types of retail stores.

Hagerstown Towne Centre also would include office buildings.

The County Commissioners tabled a request by the city council for support for the Doub Farm annexation in June.

City Councilman Martin Brubaker suggested Tuesday that the Hagerstown Towne Centre project would benefit the community more than Hagerstown Gateway, which is being developed by Faison Enterprises.

He said the developers of the Doub Farm project, Petrie Ross Ventures, likely would front money to expand Dual Highway to six lanes from Interstate 70 to Edgewood Drive.

Petrie Ross also has offered money to promote downtown Hagerstown.

"I think it's incumbent on us not to let this opportunity go by," Brubaker said.

Brubaker suggested that no matter which project is built, support from the commissioners for Doub Farm would sustain competition between the two developers, which he said ultimately will benefit the community.

"If we don't grant express approval, the pressure will come off Faison to meet community needs," Brubaker said during the meeting.

County Commissioner James F. Kercheval said he is concerned about residents who live near Doub Farm, which has been zoned for high-density residential use for decades.

"Now you're looking at a zoning change for nearby residents who thought they bought homes near a residential property," Kercheval said.

About 20 people at Tuesday's meeting wore bright orange stickers protesting the Doub Farm annexation.

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