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Doub annexation request sparks debate

October 27, 2009|By ANDREW SCHOTZ

HAGERSTOWN -- A request for Hagerstown to annex nearly 142 acres near Interstate 70 was back before the city council Tuesday.

The request has been amended since last year, when a developer and plans for a large shopping center were attached.

Now, the developer is gone and the petitioners are asking only to be part of the city.

In October 2008, the Washington County Commissioners declined to support a rezoning that would have allowed the project to move forward. Instead, development must wait five years if the city annexes the land.

Mayor Robert E. Bruchey II said the hearing isn't about the zoning or possible future development of the land, but whether the city or the county should control a "gateway" area into Hagerstown.

Some council members said the discussion wasn't so simple.

Council members Ashley C. Haywood and Forrest Easton wondered why talk about zoning was off limits even though it's tied to the annexation petition.

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The petitioners are depending on the land being zoned C-4, which allows a regional shopping center, and Planned Office-Mixed Use.

The petitioners proposed conditions to which they'd agree as part of annexation, including contributions to help the city market its downtown, two buses to run between the property and the downtown, and a 40-foot buffer.

Councilman Lewis C. Metzner said the petitioners put those ideas forward knowing city officials have expressed interest in them.

Haywood, though, said the conditions are based on a certain type of commercial zoning.

Easton said city staff, which favors the annexation, made several references to the zoning as part of a report to the council.

Andrew C. DiPasquale, a representative for the petitioners, said it might be eight years -- including the built-in five-year delay -- before anything is built on the land.

During the public hearing, Dick Miller, the president of the Potomac Ridge condominium association, said the city, not the petitioners, should lay out conditions that should be in place for an annexation agreement.

Tina Kurtz of Landis Road said there needs to be studies on the effect development would have on local wells and on the projected increase in traffic for those zoning classifications.

Washington County Commissioner Kristin B. Aleshire said a local government committee has privately been discussing potential uses in that area and urged that the city be part of the talks.

The council took no action on the matter.

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