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Ordinance could allow convenience stores

March 29, 2009|By DAN DEARTH

HAGERSTOWN -- The Hagerstown City Council on Tuesday will consider introducing an ordinance -- against the recommendation of the city planning director -- that would allow convenience stores and fast-food restaurants to be constructed in certain neighborhoods.

Last week, City Planning Director Kathleen Maher told the council that the zoning of commercial buildings in certain neighborhoods was outdated. As a result, she suggested that the zoning be changed to protect those areas from "high-intensity commercial development."

Maher said failing to change the zoning on property near City Park at the intersection of Virginia Avenue and Howard Street, for instance, could allow the construction of such businesses as a convenience store and a fast-food restaurant if a developer bought a large number of abutting properties and redeveloped them.

"Anything you see along Dual Highway could be put in that location," Maher said.

Businesses near the intersection of Virginia Avenue and Howard Street include Mr. G's Tanning and Ruth's Sewing Room.

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Maher said in a telephone interview Thursday that the City Planning Department suggested the changes to "look at the interest of the whole community" rather than a few building owners.

When Maher presented her case to city lawmakers last week, Mayor Robert E. Bruchey II and a majority of the council said it would be better to listen to the building owners, who last month attended a public hearing and claimed that changing the zoning would decrease the value of their properties by limiting potential uses.

The council members who agreed with Bruchey were Kelly S. Cromer, Penny M. Nigh and Alesia D. Parson-McBean.

Bruchey said he supported the building owners because city officials should listen to residents who speak during public hearings.

Councilmen Martin E. Brubaker and Lewis C. Metzner said the council should try to protect entire neighborhoods and not just commercial property owners.

Metzner said after the work session that he would vote to change the zoning at Virginia Avenue and Howard Street.

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