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Owners of split parcels ask Hagerstown not to annex their properties

Residents are concerned their taxes will increase significantly if plan is adopted

April 26, 2011|By KATE S. ALEXANDER | kate.alexander@herald-mail.com

Slivers of their property might be in the city of Hagerstown, but the owners of several split parcels proposed for annexation said Tuesday night that they do not want to be city taxpayers.

"We, as county residents, don't want to be in the city," Kevin Spessard of Key Circle said during a City Council hearing.

"I don't want  it, I can't afford it," Teresa Magaha of Key Circle said. "If you do decide to do this, I say exempt the people until they sell the house, and then do it.  But don't do it now because you are going to force me to sell my house, and I don't know what I am going to do because I can't afford it."

"I'm opposed to this all the way around," said John Morris of Linwood Road.

"I bought my house as my first house, and I bought it because it was in the county," said Heather Spade of Park Avenue. "Had it been in the city and had I known it could have been annexed into the city, I wouldn't have bought it."

 A 2009 state law gives municipalities the power to annex split parcels until Sept. 30, 2011, without obtaining property owner or registered voter approval, city planner Alex Rohrbaugh said.

A split parcel is a property through which a municipal boundary line passes, putting only part of it within city limits.

City officials have proposed annexing 95 split parcels totaling 21.8 acres into the city, most of which are split by an old, 1914 city line, he said.

The council listened to testimony from 14 residents Tuesday night as part of a public hearing on the plan.

Of those who spoke, most asked the council to reject the plan in part or in its entirety. A common thread running through their testimony was concern about paying higher city taxes.  

Barbara Donaldson, of Starland Roller Rink on Park Road said her taxes would jump $2,000 more than her current annual bill if her property is annexed into the city.

C.E. Kendall of Key Avenue said he was told by a man in the city planning office that his taxes would go up $600.

Others said their taxes would double or even increase tenfold over their current bills.

"Personally, I don't care if you annex, but don't increase my taxes by 10 times; that is just not right," said Dixie Birmingham of Key Avenue.

The citizens also questioned what, if any, benefits they would reap as city residents.

"If I am annexed against my better judgment, I want to know what the city is going to do for me," said Nancy Hahn of Armstrong Avenue.

Councilman Lewis C. Metzner assured the citizens that the council has not yet made a decision on the plan.

However, he said that some, but not all, of the property owners included in the plan already receive city services without paying any city taxes. Rohrbaugh said previously that every property receives the county tax differential.

The annexation plan will be brought before the council for discussion at an upcoming work session, Rohrbaugh said.

If the council chooses to move forward with any portion of the annexations, it must approve the plan at least 45 days before the state law sunsets on Sept. 30, he said.

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