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Special overlay zones could ease zoning for neighborhood businesses

September 15, 2009|By DAVE McMILLION

HAGERSTOWN -- Hagerstown City Council members are expected next week to review a proposal to help neighborhood businesses in the city.

Currently, if a business that existed before the city's zoning ordinance closes for more than a year, it cannot reopen.

The businesses are considered nonconforming uses, but they serve a purpose, and the city is trying to help keep businesses of that type, city officials have said.

City officials have proposed an overlay zone that allows certain commercial uses in residential neighborhoods.

The plan gives standards for the businesses so they will be a good "corporate neighbor," according to a presentation to Hagerstown City Council members Tuesday afternoon by Stephen Bockmiller, the city's zoning administrator.

The standards say such businesses will only be allowed if they face or are oriented toward public streets, not alleys, Bockmiller said during a work session.

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Any property owner who wants to apply for the special overlay zone would present a concept plan to the city's planning department, Bockmiller said.

City council members would make the final decision on the proposals, Bockmiller said.

Some of the businesses have stopped operating and their buildings have deteriorated, city officials said.

Benefits of the proposed development plan would be a revitalization of properties and a possible improvement to the tax base, Bockmiller said.

Councilman William M. Breichner said he thought the proposal was a good way to deal with nonconforming uses.

"Good move," Breichner said.

Councilman Forrest Easton asked Bockmiller if a car wash on Jonathan Street that has been closed for a number of years would be allowed to reopen as a car wash under the plan. Bockmiller said it would not be allowed to reopen as a car wash.

A list of allowed businesses under the plan include dry cleaning and laundry services; hair, nail and skin care services; and banks, savings institutions and credit unions.

The plan is on the agenda for the council's regular meeting Tuesday at 7 p.m.

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