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Letter to the Editor - April 11

April 11, 2013

BOE decision might be short-sighted for county

To the editor:

The Washington County Board of Education’s preference for the Downsville Pike location for its new offices, and potentially a new school, might be short-sighted for Washington County.

While there is apparently no strong interest in developing the Potomac Edison property commercially at the present time, the mere transfer of a number of employees from one place in the county to this site effectively eradicates its potential as a job-creation engine for generations. It is locations at interstate interchanges such as this that have brought us large employers of many types.

The current Comprehensive Plan for Washington County has designated the zoning on this site as an “ORI” (Office, Research and Industry) district, in which educational institutions are a principal permitted use. The relocation definitely fits in the legal parameters for that district. But, was the intention to provide a site for a relocation of taxpayer-funded jobs or to attract new, forprofit entities to the county?

I have no quarrel with the need for new offices. I don’t know the factors that make the possibility of a temporary relocation, teardown and new construction on the current site unrealistic. Nor have I heard what that property would then be used for.

We have lived in Hagerstown for 25 years, and I have worked in or very near the downtown core for 21 of them. As a past member of the Hagerstown Planning Commission, I attended evening meetings for 16 years. My wife and I enjoy attending performances at The Maryland Theatre and the Academy Playhouse, and look forward to accessing our new library.

A downtown BOE location would have been a positive step in revitalization, both from the influx of employees and the replacement of some buildings for which there are no strong reasons for preservation and little economic value for rehabilitation. It would have finally decided what kind of downtown we have. It is not, apparently, a retail downtown but a government function and related services area.

And then there is the money. Some of that money is mine. It comes from my wallet in the form of taxes I pay to the county, state and federal governments. If we don’t preserve this land as a job-creation site, then the hits on my wallet get deeper, because nothing gets cheaper and we’ve reduced the number of potential taxpayers in the future.

Fred Nugent
Hagerstown

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