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'White elephants' not part of Hagerstown rezoning plans

August 25, 2010|By ANDREW SCHOTZ

HAGERSTOWN -- The city's planning department has recommended leaving Washington County Hospital out of rezoning talk about Hagerstown's East End, for now.

Planning Director Kathleen Maher said Tuesday "the three white elephants" in the East End will be excluded for the time being. Besides the hospital property, she was referring to the former Municipal Electric Light Plant and the former First Urban Fiber building, both of which are vacant.

Those properties will be considered once more is known about their future, Maher said.

The hospital building on East Antietam Street will be vacated when Meritus Health Center opens off Robinwood Drive in December.

The East End/hospital neighborhood is one of the special planning areas the city considered during a comprehensive zoning review.

The rezoning has been under way for months.

On Tuesday, the public was invited to comment on 19 more proposed changes.

One drew the most interest -- changing the former car wash property on Jonathan Street from Residential to Downtown-Mixed Use.

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Alfonso Mitchell, a trustee with Zion Baptist Church, said the church hopes to expand and is concerned that new businesses -- such as liquor stores or nightclubs -- might not be positive for the community.

Willie Conyers, who co-owns rental property in the neighborhood, agreed.

Tim Light, representing the owner of the car wash property, said he'd like to see the church buy the property. The current asking price is $350,000, but the owner would take less, he said.

Light said the car wash building would be a good site for the Doleman Black Heritage Museum.

James Hamill, president and CEO of Washington County Health System, the hospital's parent organization, has said he expects to know more in September or October about the future of the current hospital building when it becomes vacant.

The health system's state-approved schedule for a new medical center includes demolishing the current building.

Hamill has said the health system has up to one year after it vacates the current building to find a use for it.

This is the fourth and last phase of the city's comprehensive rezoning.

The city council is scheduled to discuss the latest rezoning proposals at a work session in September.

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