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Hearing set on annexing site of earlier shopping center proposal

October 10, 2009|By ANDREW SCHOTZ

HAGERSTOWN -- A year after a shopping center proposal at U.S. 40 and Interstate 70 failed to clear a key hurdle, the Hagerstown City Council will consider annexing the land.

The council will hold a public hearing on the annexation request on Oct. 27, said Kathleen Maher, the city's planning director.

If the city approves the annexation from the county, the land can't be developed for five years.

That's because last October, the Washington County Commissioners declined to support a rezoning that would have paved the way for the shopping center plan.

Under state statute, the shopping center proposal either had to fit the county's zoning or the county had to give express approval for the new zoning the land would have had in the city, said Michael Thompson, the county's planning director.

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Since the county didn't agree with the possible zoning change -- from high-density residential to both C-4, which allows a regional shopping center, and Planned Office-Mixed Use -- developers must wait five years to build if the city annexes the land.

The petition for annexation includes 141.69 acres around U.S. 40, Day Road, I-70 and Landis Road.

Doub Real Estate Partnership owns 112.22 acres along the I-70 exit ramp. The rest belongs to Shaool Holdings LLC and Day Road LLC and to Robin Brawner and Troy Brawner, according to the petition.

Last year, a concept plan for the shopping center, known as Hagerstown Towne Centre, showed a wholesale club store, a department store, a cinema, a home improvement store, two hotels, three office buildings and as many as 13 retail shops.

Another developer, Faison Enterprises, was considering building a separate large retail project close to U.S. 40 and I-70.

Faison's proposal, called Hagerstown Gateway, did not require a zoning change, but hasn't progressed.

Thompson said Thursday the county has had preliminary talks with Faison about its project, but not in the last three months or so. The company hasn't submitted a plan.

"They're still interested in the proposal," Thompson said.

Last year, the request by Doub and nearby property owners showed Petrie Ross Ventures building the shopping center.

There is no longer a development plan attached to the land.

Sassan Shaool, a principal in one of companies requesting the annexation, said the economy is too tough for retail projects now.

For now, the landowners want annexation because it's a requirement to get city water and sewer service, he said.

"We're just moving the ball in the direction" of eventual development, Shaool said.

The city's planning department has recommended that the city council approve the annexation.

"City staff feel that it is of great benefit to the City of Hagerstown to have control over the future development of this significant gateway property along our border at the I-70 and U.S. 40 interchange and this will only be achieved if we annex the property," Maher wrote in an August memo.

She noted that annexation would generate more tax revenue for the city.

The Doub farm, zoned for agriculture use, is assessed at about $312 per acre, Maher's memo says. Comparable vacant commercially zoned properties in the city are assessed at $20,313 and $80,000 per acre, the memo says.

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