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Rezonings approved for possible annexations

February 28, 2011|By HEATHER KEELS | heather.keels@herald-mail.com

HAGERSTOWN — Two proposed annexations to the City of Hagerstown have been granted county approval for zoning changes upon annexation.

The Washington County Commissioners voted last week to allow one property, near Interstate 70, to be rezoned for regional shopping center use, and another property, near Salem Avenue, to be rezoned for residential use.

The county’s “express approval” for those changes means that if the city moves forward with annexation, it will not have to wait the requisite five years before changing the zoning on those properties, Washington County Planning Director Michael C. Thompson said.

The property approved for shopping center zoning is a 5.32-acre property owned by the Maryland State Highway Administration near the interchange of Interstate 70 and U.S. 40, at the eastern edge of Hagerstown.

That property is surrounded on three sides by the 142-acre Doub Farm property, which the city annexed about a year ago. A developer had proposed a shopping center project for the Doub Farm property, but those plans were put on hold when the county commissioners failed to grant express approval for a zoning change on that property. About four more years remain before the city could rezone Doub Farm to allow a regional shopping center.

The 5.32-acre state-owned parcel is currently zoned Highway Interchange 2, a county zoning designation that allows for limited business and industrial uses. City annexation and rezoning to the city’s C4, or regional shopping center, designation would pave the way for SHA to sell the property to the Doub Farm owner for use in an eventual development, city planner Alex Rohrbaugh said.

That scenario is hypothetical, as there are no current plans for a shopping center on the Doub Farm property and the state has not put the 5.32-acre property up for sale, Rohrbaugh said.

The commissioners voted 4-1 to grant express approval for that zoning change, though they said they were confused about why the city is pursuing annexation for it now.

“I’m missing something,” Commissioner John F. Barr said. “What’s the urgency in this? There’s no buyer, there’s no seller. It’s just a parcel of land that’s sitting there land-locked.”

Commissioners President Terry Baker voted against the rezoning approval, noting that the surrounding property could not be developed as a shopping center for four years, so requiring a five-year wait on the smaller parcel would only result in a one-year setback overall.

The other property approved for rezoning was a 1.41-acre property on the western edge of the city, adjacent to the Collegiate Acres development west of I-81 and north of Salem Avenue.

The owner, Beltway Properties V LLC, is requesting the annexation and to have the property rezoned to R3, a high-density residential zoning classification, so it can be added to the Collegiate Acres multifamily residential development, Thompson said.

The property is currently zoned Highway Interchange 1.

The commissioners voted unanimously to grant express approval for that zoning change.

Public hearings on both annexations are scheduled for March 22 during the Hagerstown City Council meeting at 7 p.m. in City Hall.

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