Councilman wants 'binding agreement' before funding Broadfording Rd. project

August 16, 2011|By KATE S. ALEXANDER |
  • Widening a section of Broadfording Road will partly depend on participation from Washington County and conceptual approval of a developer's plans, the Hagerstown City Council said Tuesday.
By Chad Trovinger, Graphic Artist

Widening a section of Broadfording Road will partly depend on participation from Washington County and conceptual approval of a developer's plans, the Hagerstown City Council said Tuesday.

It will also depend on whether the council can be assured that the city will recoup its investment, council members said.

"We need a binding — a very binding — agreement with all the other commercial developers there," Councilman Martin Brubaker said. "We need to be assured we are going to get it (reimbursement), there should be an interest rate, a floating interest rate, so if we have skyrocketing inflation, we're protected."

The council discussed repairing and widening a damaged 0.28-mile section of Broadfording Road, between Salem Avenue (Md. 58) and Hollyhock Road.

City staff presented the council with six bids for the project, the lowest of which ranged from approximately $1.3 million to $1.7 million.

The base bid included utility improvements, widening the northern 800 feet of the roadway to four lanes and reconstructing the southern portion of the existing road to Hollyhock Road. The city also bid an alternative for widening the entire stretch of Broadfording Road to Hollyhock Road.

To spur economic development and rehabilitate the failing roadway, the city took the lead on repairing the road, which is in the city limits, owned by the state and, to date, has been maintained by Washington County, City Engineer Rodney Tissue said.   

In 2010, the city joined in a road club with the county and adjacent developers to make the project a reality using a mixture of developer contributions and a county earmark. No city funds were proposed.

Only one property owner along the section of road, 2003 Salem Avenue LLC (AC&T) is still interested in developing its land at this time and contributing to the road repairs, Tissue said.

AC&T expressed to the city its willingness to contribute about $689,574 to the project if the city approves its concept plan for the site and reimburses it for about $189,754 of its contribution, Assistant City Engineer Jim Bender said.

Approximately an additional $616,934 has been committed to the project, Bender said.

Washington County set aside $250,000 for its improvement and I-81 Hollyhock LLC (UNIWEST), which built the adjacent Shoppes at Hagerstown anchored by Best Buy, has committed $366,934.67 to the project, according to the conditions of its development, he said.

While the city could widen just the northern portion of Broadfording Road along AC&T's property without an upfront investment, widening the entire stretch would minimize the traffic impact, Bender said.

However, without other developers willing to contribute money to the project now, widening the entire section would leave a $469,621 funding gap for the city and — if it is willing to contribute — the county, to fill, he said.

The council said that before it decides to move forward with the road-repair project, it wants to know if Washington County is willing to split the difference.

If the city fronts money for the project, it would establish an assessment district to hopefully recoup that money from developers when they choose to build, Tissue said.

But a recent council decision to temporarily reduce or amortize a similar assessment fee for developers along Eastern Boulevard proved that recouping all of its investment cannot be guaranteed, Councilman Lewis C. Metzner said.

Metzner also questioned why the council is considering spending any money on a road it does not own.  

Tissue said other AC&T convenience stores generate $10,000 to $13,000 in annual city taxes.

The council also said it wants to know if AC&T's development plans will receive conceptual approval from the city planning commission, something it cannot guarantee.

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