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Hagerstown to draft 'eminent domain' ordinance on MELP building

Measure is expected to come before council for final approval on Sept. 24; if passed, it would go into effect Oct. 24

August 27, 2013|By DAVE McMILLION | davem@herald-mail.com
  • The Hagerstown City Council came to a consensus to begin the process of taking the former Municipal Electric Light Plant property at the intersection of Eastern Boulevard south and Mt. Aetna Road by eminent domain, a legal process by which the city can take back private property for public use.
File photo

The city took its first step Tuesday night to acquire the beleaguered former Municipal Electric Light Plant, when the Hagerstown City Council voted unanimously to draft an “eminent domain” ordinance to take the property.

Councilman Kristin B. Aleshire made a motion to introduce an ordinance authorizing legal counsel and city staff to begin eminent domain proceedings. It was seconded by Councilman Donald F. Munson.

The five-member council then passed the motion unanimously but made no further comments.

The measure is expected to come before the council for final approval on Sept. 24. If passed then, it would go into effect Oct. 24.

Council members said earlier this month that they intended to proceed with eminent domain.

Since coming into office, some council members have said demolishing the blighted brick structure at the intersection of Eastern Boulevard south and Mt. Aetna Road has been a priority — and it was time to force the owner’s hand in making that happen.

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The city has been negotiations with the owner for about 28 months, but they are at a stalemate.

On Monday night, the Maryland Department of the Environment held an informational hearing in Hagerstown on a proposal to pump PCB-laden water from the basement of the building and discharge the treated water into Antietam Creek.

The MDE is considering granting a permit to David Harshman of Partners Marketing LLP to discharge the treated wastewater into the creek, but the agency has not made a decision on the permit.

Although some people praised an engineering firm working on the project for their sophisticated plan to treat the water, others were nervous about the idea.

Hagerstown City Attorney John Urner said previously that it would take about a year for the city to go through the preliminary process for eminent domain.

The case would ultimately go before a judge or jury to determine the value of the property and award it to the owner, Urner said.

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