Planning commissioner questions handling of downtown Hagerstown stadium proposal

Commission chair asks members, including mayoral candidate Gysberts, to refrain from stating opinions on project until 'final package' is formalized

August 29, 2012|By DAVE McMILLION |
  • Jill Estavillo, Hagerstown's economic development manager, updates planning commission members Wednesday about a proposal to build a new stadium.
By Ric Dugan/Staff Photographer

HAGERSTOWN — After Democratic mayoral candidate David S. Gysberts posed several questions to a city development official Wednesday night about a proposed $30 million stadium project in downtown Hagerstown, a suggestion was made that he limit his inquiries.

Gysberts, a member of the Hagerstown Planning Commission, was asking questions about the stadium project while Jill Estavillo, economic development manager for the city, was giving an update to the group.

Planning Commission Chairman Douglas S. Wright Jr. said a few questions about the project from Gysberts would be fine, but Wright said the overall purpose of the meeting was to give Estavillo a chance to give all the planning commission members an update.

Wright said planning commission members need to refrain from stating opinions on the stadium project until a “final package” is formalized.

“We certainly have a lot more to stay tuned for,” Wright said.

The proposed stadium would go before the planning commission for consideration if it materializes to the point that a site plan would be developed for the project, city officials said.

Gysbert’s comments came after a Hagerstown City Council meeting Tuesday in which some citizens expressed concerns about the cost of the proposed new stadium, how it misses an opportunity to capitalize on the city’s historic nature and how people have had no input.

During Tuesday’s meeting, council members were presented with 910 signatures from people opposed to the stadium.

Wednesday night, Gysberts asked Estavillo who picked the proposed stadium site at West Baltimore Street and Summit Avenue.

She said city staff and community leaders were among those involved in site selection.

Gysberts asked Estavillo how often a project committee for the proposal meets and whether the group’s meetings are open to the public.

Estavillo said the project committee meets about twice a month and the meetings are not public.

Gysberts said he wanted to know why he could not find one city taxpayer not associated with city government that was selected to sit on the stadium project committee.

“I can’t find one,” said Gysberts, who called the situation “appalling.”

Gysberts said he also wanted to know why more consideration was not given to keeping Municipal Stadium for the Hagerstown Suns.

City officials said during the meeting that one problem with Municipal Stadium is that it is prone to flooding.

Gysberts asked how often it floods.

“Two to three times a decade,” said City Engineer Rodney Tissue.

Estavillo said her presentation was the same one she has made to other groups in the community.

She said a marketing and feasibility study has been completed on the project, and lease negotiations are under way with the Hagerstown Suns.

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