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Plan floated for extending city utilities

September 08, 2009|By ANDREW SCHOTZ

HAGERSTOWN -- The City of Hagerstown is considering relaxing its annexation requirements for outside properties to get utility services.

A proposal the city council discussed Tuesday covered three parts of the county -- Friendship Technology Park and Hopewell Valley, both in the Halfway area, and Hagerstown Regional Airport, north of the city.

The city would expand the boundaries of its Medium Range Growth Area, making businesses there eligible for city water and sewer as outside customers.

Currently, in exchange for extending water and sewer service, the city requires "pre-annexation": The property owner commits to annexation into Hagerstown once the parcel becomes contiguous to the city.

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The new proposal says the city wouldn't mandate that properties in the airport area and Hopewell Valley be annexed before getting city services.

Pre-annexation would not be waived for Friendship Technology Park.

In return for exempting Hopewell Valley, the city suggests annually getting 50 percent of the tax revenue it would have received if the property were annexed and the owner paid city taxes.

The proposal says the city would require a revenue-sharing policy with the county if Hopewell Valley were exempted.

The city's pre-annexation policy has been a sticking point between the two government bodies for years as economic development officials have tried to draw new businesses to the region.

City officials said this was an attempt to find common ground with the county.

Councilman William M. Breichner said the county's reaction might be, "There they are, blackmailing us again."

Other council members voiced questions and concerns, too.

"I think the 800-pound gorilla is double taxation," Councilman Martin E. Brubaker said, referring to city residents paying both city and county taxes.

Councilman Lewis C. Metzner said the airport is considered an economic boon, but doesn't pay local taxes. He wondered if the city's benefit in helping the airport would be real or an assumption.

He later emphasized that he has never opposed extending city services to any of the three areas in the new proposal.

Mayor Robert E. Bruchey II suggested that, for Hopewell Valley, the city might be better off getting half of the possible tax revenue now than waiting many years for a property to be annexed.

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