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City considers reclaiming land leased to Army

February 27, 2012|By C.J. LOVELACE | cj.lovelace@herald-mail.com

HAGERSTOWN — The City of Hagerstown leased a 4.6-acre lot to the U.S. Army in 1956 to create an Army Reserves facility, but an apparent lack of activity on the property in the past year has raised concerns among city officials.

According to several reports from nearby residents, military activity on the property at the corner of East Franklin and Willard streets ceased in about the summer of 2010, prompting city officials to begin the process of reclaiming the land, Public Works Manager Eric Deike told the Hagerstown City Council recently.

The Army paid the city $1 as payment for the 99-year lease, which began May 1, 1956, and was to continue until the government gave notice of termination or abandoned activities on the property for one year, according to the lease agreement.

Deike said city officials were notified in the summer of 2010 that the property near the city’s golf course had little or no activity on it for quite some time. The Army built several buildings, fencing, lighting and large paved areas for parking, and a helicopter landing pad, but apparently no longer uses it, he said.

The city’s attorneys researched the matter and discovered that the property was owned by the City of Hagerstown and could legally be reclaimed under the terms outlined in the lease, Deike said.

City officials have spoken with Army representatives, who indicated that they no longer were interested in using the property, but have not received anything official in writing, Deike said. An engineering firm that maintains the land has told the city it has not had contact with the Army for about eight months, he said.

The five-member council gave Deike the go-ahead to prepare a letter to inform the Army that the city will reclaim the land after 30 days’ notice, in accordance with the city’s rights under the lease. City staff will begin developing ways to use the land.

Councilman Forrest Easton, who lives nearby, said it’s no secret that the buildings aren’t being used.

“I’ve called law enforcement several times ... on a weekly basis, there’s (kids) climbing on the roof, riding their bikes on the roof, trying to get over the fence,” Easton said. “In the short term, the city could definitely use those garages.”

Deike said the land has three buildings. The largest houses offices, a gymnasium, a cafeteria, a shooting range and storage space. The second was used for vehicle maintenance and the third was mostly used for storage.

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