City council members to vote on sale of property for senior center

December 03, 2012|By C.J. LOVELACE |

In its first special voting session Tuesday as a new administration, Hagerstown City Council members are slated to vote on an ordinance that would sell a city property formerly used by the U.S. Army Reserve to Washington County as the potential site of a new senior citizens’ center.

The city council’s special session will begin at 4 p.m. in the council chamber at City Hall.

The outgoing five-member council on Nov. 13 unanimously approved the introduction of the ordinance to sell the 4.6-acre property at 21 Willard St. for $625,000.

Although the property is valued at about $2 million by the state Department of Taxation and Assessment, the previous council viewed the proposed sale as a positive for the city and county, which has been looking to establish a permanent senior center for years to no avail.

The county board of commissioners on Nov. 27 voted 4-1 to approve the purchase, with board President Terry Baker casting the dissenting vote.

The property would be bought using federal grant money that will expire at the end of the year, County Administrator Gregory B. Murray has said.

County officials are expecting that the cost of the senior center at this location — off Jefferson Boulevard, near the Hagerstown Greens at Hamilton Run golf course — will be much lower than the recently rejected plans at Hagerstown Community College, which approached $7.5 million with contingency costs.

However, Baker was critical of the fact that county officials didn’t have exact cost estimates before approving the purchase. He also felt more input from the community was necessary, plus an environmental report of the property.

Murray said Nov. 27 that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers prepared a report that states there are 17 instances of asbestos and 10 more places with lead paint on the property, but he pointed out that many are in spots that would be replaced in a renovation.

The city-owned property was leased to and used by the Army for decades, but activity at the site ceased in recent years. After some confusion about the Army’s use of the site, it was eventually turned back over to the city earlier this year.

Located in a medium-density residential area, the property has three existing buildings and a large amount of space for parking. Officials from the city, county and Washington County Commission on Aging have toured the property.

If approved by the council, a special exception from the city’s Board of Zoning Appeals must be approved to allow a senior center to operate on the premises. The appeal from the county is on the BZA’s Dec. 19 agenda.

CDBG grant fund hearing

Prior to the vote on the Willard Street property, a rescheduled public hearing will take place to receive comments and project recommendations for establishing the city’s Community Development Block Grant annual action plan for the upcoming fiscal year.

The purpose of the hearing, which was initially scheduled for Nov. 20, is to obtain views and comments of individuals and organizations in the community concerning the city’s housing and community development needs, according to city documents.

Applications for nonprofit organizations seeking funding are available on the city’s website or for pickup at the Department of Community and Economic Development at 14 N. Potomac St., Suite 200A. Additional applications will be available at the hearing.

For those who cannot attend the meeting, written comments can be sent to the Department of Community and Economic Development or emailed to by Jan. 6.

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