Site planned for convenience store on list of threatened historic properties

March 25, 2012|By DAVE McMILLION |
  • The Potomac House building at East Potomac and South Artizan streets in Williamsport, the site of a planned convenience store, is on a list of threatened historic properties in Maryland.
By Yvette May/Staff Photographer

WILLIAMSPORT — Maryland’s oldest historic preservation organization has included the Potomac House in Williamsport on its 2012 list of threatened historic properties in the state.

Over nearly 200 years, the Potomac House at East Potomac and South Artizan streets has been a tavern, a temperance hall and a hosiery factory. A county historical official earlier made a plea to spare the building from a plan for a new convenience store to be built on the site.

This is the sixth year for the Endangered Maryland listing, which contains 11 sites this year.

Founded in 1931 as the Society for the Preservation of Maryland Antiquities, Preservation Maryland is dedicated to preserving the state’s historic buildings, neighborhoods, landscapes and archaeological sites, according to a news release from the organization.

The Endangered Maryland listing is designed to generate public awareness of Maryland’s threatened historic properties, to come up with possible solutions and to serve as a call to action, the release said.

Sandy Izer of the Washington County Historical Trust, which nominated the Potomac House for the list, said she has been encouraging Sheetz personnel to consider building its new store along Interstate 81 outside the boundaries of “old town” Williamsport.

“I’m not an anti-Sheetz person. I enjoy going to Sheetz as much as the next guy,” Izer said.

Hagerstown attorney Travis W. Poole, who has been involved in the Sheetz project, said Izer had not talked to him or any of the people he usually works with from Sheetz.

Poole said plans are still on to build the Sheetz store, adding “we’re well into the process now.”

When asked if the listing has caused Sheetz officials to have any second thoughts about the store, Poole said it is “problematic” to think that a company would think about halting a process after making significant investments in it.

“It sounds like a last-minute (effort) to stop things,” Poole said.

Pat Schooley, a member of the Washington County Historical Advisory Committee, appeared before the Williamsport Town Council in December to ask council members for their help in sparing the Potomac House from the wrecking ball.

Schooley said it could be used for the new store and said McDonald’s restaurants have sometimes been located in old buildings.

Mayor James G. McCleaf II has said that the council does not have any say over the razing of the building.

The only decision the town has in the process is whether to abandon part of an alley on the property, McCleaf said. Council members have not voted on the alley abandonment.

Izer said McCleaf is simply abiding by the laws of the town and added that she has found McCleaf to be “absolutely delightful” in working on historic preservation issues in town.

Dick Grimm, Williamsport’s zoning administrator, said the town planning commission has yet to receive a final site plan for the new Sheetz. If the planning commission approves the site plan, the next step will be the council vote on the alley abandonment, according to Grimm and Poole.

Izer said it was an honor to have the Potomac House included on the Endangered Maryland listing. Nominations for the list come from across the state, and a panel of historic preservationists made the list after assessing levels of threats, historical and architectural significance of sites, and community support for saving them, according to Izer and Preservation Maryland.

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