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Councilman: Hagerstown not an obstacle to 'West City' school plan

July 16, 2013|BY HOLLY SHOK | holly.shok@herald-mail.com

As the Hagerstown City Council was reviewing the concept plan for a proposed “West City” elementary school on Tuesday, Councilman Martin E. Brubaker took the opportunity to “squelch” rumors that the “city has been an obstacle” for the county school board in the zoning-modification process.

The site for the proposed school in the Hager’s Crossing development behind Walmart currently is zoned R2, or residential, with a Planned Unit Development overlay for mixed-density residential.

An amendment must be made to the PUD overlay for the school to be built at the 16.52-acre site in Hagerstown’s West End, a process involving Hagerstown Planning Commission review and approval by the council.

“Not only is this process no different from what the planning commission does year after year and month after month, what the city does — the city process that’s required under Maryland land use law, but staff has reached out over and over again to be cooperative to inform the school board and the school board’s staff of the city’s requirements ...” said Brubaker, addressing the “undercurrents” he has heard from members of the community. 

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Following a public hearing at the council’s July 23 meeting, the council’s next move would be to vote to introduce the ordinance to amend the PUD at the end of August, City Planner Alex Rohrbaugh said.

Pending a formal vote, the ordinance would be adopted the following month and take effect 30 days later, Rohrbaugh said.

The planning commission recommended approval of the PUD amendment June 12 with the condition that the school be “oriented toward” Hager’s Crossing Drive and “close enough to the street to provide for a more traditional neighborhood design,” city documents said. 

The latest preliminary design shows the school closer to Hagers Crossing Drive, rather than in the middle of the tract as initial designs had shown, with parking on the west side and a bus loop in front of the school, Rohrbaugh said.

Washington County Board of Education members voiced concerns at a June 25 meeting about the revised concept proposal.

If the council approves the PUD amendment, the school system would then need to submit a more detailed site plan to the planning commission, Rohrbaugh has said.

After revisions are complete, the schematic design for the new school is slated to be presented to the school board in August for approval, officials have said.

“We’re not a rubber stamp, nor can we take our legal process, do a wink and a nod and say, ‘Oh that’s OK,’ when it’s a major land use change from tax-paying property to a public school facility,” said Brubaker, who is a nonvoting member of the planning commission.

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