City annexation

Courtyard by Marriott, Springhill Suites by Marriott and the Valley Mall Family Diner are slated to be annexed into Hagerstown as part of a pre-annexation agreement. The property owners have asked for a delay of the annexation or a phasing in of real estate taxes.

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After continued requests from the property owners to delay action, Hagerstown tabled a resolution annexing nearly five acres of land near Valley Mall.

The Hagerstown City Council agreed Tuesday to move back discussion regarding the proposed annexation of 17280, 17270 and 17276 Valley Mall Road, which includes Courtyard by Marriott, Springhill Suites by Marriott and Valley Mall Family Diner.

The meeting was the body's first in-person regular session since mid-March.

The proposed annexation plan was introduced by the council on April 28 and a public hearing was held June 23. The council was slated to vote on the approval of the annexation resolution, which is part of a pre-annexation agreement signed by the property owners and stating the city has the right to annex when the property becomes contiguous to the corporate boundary, in exchange for water service.

During the citizen comment portion of the meeting, Paul D. Rose Jr. from Miles & Stockridge, which represents property owners Cole Road Holdings LLC and Valley World Inc., asked again for the council to table the vote.

He said his clients don't oppose the annexation and understand their obligations in regards to the pre-annexation agreement, but were requesting "temporary relief from the dramatic increase" in real estate taxes due to the large impact the COVID-19 pandemic has had on the businesses.

Rose said he submitted a letter to the city Monday about tabling the vote. The city previously received two letters from Miles & Stockridge asking the council to consider either delaying annexation or using a phased-in approach of property taxes.

In a compromise suggested by the city's planning department, the resolution included a three-year phased-in real estate tax increase with 50% of annual taxes due next July and 100% due in July 2022.

Rose suggested a five-year phase-in that would include no increase the first year, 25% the second, 50% the third, 75% the fourth and the full 100% in the fifth year. He said even that plan would be difficult for his clients, but it gives them a better chance at success.

"This pandemic was impossible to plan for. My clients are fighting tooth and nail to keep their businesses afloat," Rose said.

The council also heard from the tenant at Valley Mall Diner, who said the business "got hit badly" by the virus restrictions, having to close down completely from March to May and is now only at 50% capacity.

He asked the council to "help us recover" and support the request to extend the tax phase-in until the businesses can stabilize more.

Halfway Boulevard, CSX right of way

There was also a public hearing Tuesday for the annexation of more than 20 acres of properties off Hopewell Road. The properties are owned by Thomas Bennett Hunter Inc., Washington County government and CSX Transportation.

No one spoke during the hearing, and planner Megan Flick said the city had not received any comment.

The nonresidential property is at 11661 Hopewell Road and includes rights of way on Halfway Boulevard and for CSX.

The area is undeveloped and not currently served by wastewater. It will be served by county wastewater upon annexation, according to council documents. It is also not currently served by city water, but has an approved site plan for city water service for Thomas Bennett Hunter as a result of a 2015 pre-annexation agreement.

No change in ownership is proposed for the two public roads, Halfway Boulevard and Hopewell Road, fronting the annexation. Washington County will continue road maintenance.

The public record will be open for comment for 10 days and can be sent to Flick at mflick@hagerstownmd.org or by calling 301-739-8577.

This article originally ran on heraldmailmedia.com.

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