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Deal might save airport farmstead

February 17, 2009|By HEATHER KEELS

WASHINGTON COUNTY -- The Washington County Commissioners on Tuesday reviewed a draft of an agreement that could help settle a long-running dispute between aviation officials and historic preservationists over the fate of a historic farmstead near the Hagerstown Regional Airport runway.

The Brumbaugh-Kendle-Grove Farmstead, which includes a farmhouse, barn and outbuildings, is on property purchased by the county in 2002. For years, the Federal Aviation Administration has sought to have the structures removed for security reasons, while the Maryland Historical Trust has fought to preserve them.

The agreement considered Tuesday lays out several options for the farmstead in order of priority and commits the FAA and the county to pursuing them in that order. If one option is not viable within four months, the parties would agree to move onto the next.

In the FAA's draft of the agreement, officials would first attempt to find a third party to relocate the structures. Then they would attempt to sell the architectural elements to a third party and demolish the rest, then attempt to relocate the structures elsewhere on airport property. If all else failed, the structures would be demolished.

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The commissioners asked that the agreement be redrafted to make the first-priority option to offer the facility at its current location for renovation by a third party for a business use compatible with airport operations. The commissioners also asked that relocating the buildings elsewhere on airport property be ranked as preferable to dismantling the buildings and selling off the architectural elements. They said if the buildings are demolished, the agreement should stipulate that preference should go to a contractor that would reuse valuable elements such as the aged timber in the structures.

No matter which course of action was taken for the farmhouse, barn and outbuildings, the agreement states that the county will maintain a cemetery on the farmstead in its current location, and cap and secure a well on the property in accordance with health department requirements.

Commissioner Kristin B. Aleshire applauded the general concept of the agreement.

"At the end of the day, I think that this agreement does what hasn't been done for 10 years, and that's say 'here's what the various parties agree to,'" he said. "It provides clear direction and time frames - that's the most important thing - for carrying out those specific directions."

Airport Manager Carolyn Motz said she would take the county's comments back to the FAA to be incorporated into another draft.

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