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Hagerstown leaders get update on technology park project

December 06, 2011|By KATE S. ALEXANDER | kate.alexander@herald-mail.com

HAGERSTOWN — A local nonprofit leader said Tuesday that his organization plans to begin next year engineering access to a future technology park on its 173 acres of the former Mount Aetna Farms.

CHIEF, also known as the Hagerstown-Washington County Industrial Foundation, purchased a portion of Mount Aetna Farms from Diakon Senior Living this summer for just less than $3.5 million with plans to create a technology business park on the parcel, which is nestled between Hagerstown Community College and Meritus Medical Center.

The first step in developing the property is to provide access to it through the extension of Yale Drive from Medical Campus Road to Scholar Drive at HCC.

The organization’s president, Gregory Snook, updated the Hagerstown City Council on the project during the council’s work session Tuesday.

CHIEF drafted a memorandum of understanding between it, Washington County and Meritus addressing each one’s responsibilities as the project moves forward,  Snook said.

The Washington County Board of Commissioners included the Yale Drive extension in its capital improvement budget, he said. It is expected to cost $9.3 million total over several years, according to Herald-Mail reports.

CHIEF’s responsibility will be to pay for engineering of the road, while Meritus is being asked to provide right of way for the road construction, he said.

Entering into the memorandum of understanding is the first step to extending Yale Drive, he said.
Snook said he anticipates the memo will be signed by all parties by the end of the calendar year.

Once the memo is signed, Snook said CHIEF will begin engineering, which is expected to take about a year.

CHIEF has secured two consecutive $600,000 federal grants through the Appalachian Regional Commission for the road extension, subjecting the project to Maryland’s process for review.

The road will be engineered to city standards, Snook said.

City Councilman Martin Brubaker said there has been talk about annexing CHIEF’s Mount Aetna Farms property into the city.

While Brubaker said he appreciates CHIEF building to city standards, before its property could be annexed into the city, a neighboring property must also be annexed to create a contiguous city boundary.

The city council has previously discussed extending Professional Court over Antietam Creek to connect with the extended Yale Drive in an effort to significantly reduce congestion on U.S. 40, and to enhance connectivity to HCC, Meritus and the proposed technology park.

Before Professional Court can be extended, and state or federal funding pursued, the project must make it onto the state’s Consolidated Transportation Plan.

“One of the lobbying efforts this year is to, at a minimum, get it placed on the state plan,” Snook said.

Extending Professional Court is estimated to cost $15.1 million, according to documents from the Washington County Community Lobbying Coalition.

CHIEF is a nonprofit organization in the 501(c)6, or “business league” category, founded in 1960, according to news reports.

Mount Aetna Farms will be the CHIEF’s fifth business park, Snook said.

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