January 18 – A special session following a work session with Hagerstown Mayor and City Council yesterday afternoon discussed the purchase of Meritus holdings where the Hagerstown Hospital used to be.
The item on the agenda was the introduction of an ordinance to purchase the property. The plan for part of the land is to create a Battlefield Park.
Council member Kristin Aleshire expressed concern about purchasing the property because of its location in the middle of Hagerstown.
Wes Decker, Communications Officer for the City of Hagerstown, said, “He thinks that there is a likelihood that developers would be more apt to look at those properties now that we’ll have the stadium downtown and the field house being built at the other end of the city. These properties would be right in the middle. He’s not sure right now that this is the right move for the city to purchase those properties.”
He did vote to introduce the ordinance so discussion could be had, but certainly nothing’s been decided yet.
Pat Ryan of NewsTalk 103.7FM said, “Such a great point. Why on earth would you take such valuable real estate off of the tax rolls permanently?”
Michele Jansen of NewsTalk 103.7FM added, “You have to look at any decision for development in the context in how much it will help or harm the surrounding area. It’s amazing to me how many times a decision will be made without thinking what in general is going to helpful to the community or harmful? Risk versus benefit. He’s smart to bring that up.”
Ryan said, “More restaurants. More places for people to do some business. Considering the stadium project and all the rest of the development going on down there. That’s great news. At least someone’s putting up a little bit of a struggle here.”
Another discussion at the special session was the transient housing ordinances. The ordinances relate to hotels in the city that bring in first responders more often than usual – some for drug abuse – and they look to clarify what is expected of the transient housing in terms of policies, rules and then enforcement. The three ordinances had been tabled on December 20 because of opposition from the hoteliers in the city.
Decker said, “There was some discussion and deciding whether or not to take them off the table. The first one was taken off the table and then there was no appetite for going forward with it. The other two were left tabled so essentially they all die at this point.”
Council believes something needs to be done, but they don’t feel the proposed ordinances as written were adequate at this point in time.
Decker said, “The language in those ordinances not exactly what the council is looking for. So we’ll try to come to some sort of compromise between what staff has recommended and what council is willing to go forward with.”