Former Mt. Aetna Farms sold

January 21, 2009|By DAN DEARTH

HAGERSTOWN -- The former Mt. Aetna Farms has been sold to the Lutheran organization that operates two retirement communities east of Hagerstown.

Diakon Lutheran Social Ministries, which operates The Village at Robinwood and Ravenwood Lutheran Village, purchased the 222-acre parcel for an undisclosed amount of money.

A representative from the Maryland Department of Assessments and Taxation said Wednesday that the purchase price wouldn't be made public until the deed is recorded.

Jodi Murphy, executive director of The Village at Robinwood and Ravenwood Lutheran Village, could not be reached Wednesday afternoon for comment.


She said in a press release, however, that "although we have no immediate or specific plans for the site, we are reviewing a number of service-related options and believe this purchase to be in the best interest of long-term goals for our senior living services in Hagerstown."

Murphy also said in the release that Diakon is working "with the State of Maryland to license the two campuses as a single continuing care retirement community."

John F. Barr, president of the Washington County Commissioners, said he first heard about the sale roughly 10 days ago.

He said he was disappointed that the property wasn't purchased by the Hagerstown-Washington County Industrial Foundation Inc. (CHIEF), a private, nonprofit group that has played a major role in building industrial parks and luring companies to Washington County.

Had that happened, Hagerstown Community College and the Washington County Regional Medical Center - two entities that sit close to Mt. Aetna Farms - could have used the land to expand, he said.

"CHIEF looks out for the best interests of the community," Barr said. "I know the college would like to expand. They desperately need a new entrance."

The property also had been discussed as a possible site for a second-stage biotech incubator.

Barr said he heard the purchase price was about $3.1 million.

Although the purchase price and the date of the transaction were not disclosed, The Herald-Mail reported in June that the property was on the market for about $11.5 million. That figure was given by David B. Wills, vice president of NAI Michael, a real estate business that was retained by PNC Bank to sell the property.

Mt. Aetna Farms was acquired in March 2007 by PNC Financial Services Group Inc. in a foreclosure sale for $9 million, according to Herald-Mail records.

The land is zoned for residential use, and special exceptions probably would have to be made to change the zoning to allow Diakon to build another retirement center there, Washington County Planning Director Michael C. Thompson said.

Hagerstown City Administrator Bruce Zimmerman said the land is in Washington County, but is within the city's service area for water and wastewater.

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