The Hagerstown City Council on Tuesday granted a staff request for an executive session to discuss a potential offer to buy the former Holiday Motel property.
John Lestitian, the city’s director of community and economic development, who requested the executive session, said in a memo to the five-member council that an “out-of-area” investor had put in a written offer to buy the foreclosed property, with hopes of reopening a motel on the premises.
“There are also some other investors that are looking at the property,” he said. “From a staff perspective, we’re just looking at the eventual use of the property and impact it could have, or it will have, directly on the surrounding area and the neighborhoods.”
Lestitian said the city has been in contact with the current owner, Frederick County Bank, “on and off” in the past few years since the foreclosure and it was learned last Thursday about the new offer.
However, a Realtor that represents the current owner said otherwise in a telephone interview Tuesday night.
Michael Draper, owner and broker for a Century 21 realty firm based in Hagerstown, said he called the investor’s agency and requested to speak with him.
After talking with the bank and the prospective buyer, Draper learned that the bank was not interested in selling to the investor if he planned to reopen a motel on the site at the corner of West Washington and North Prospect streets.
He also said bank officials informed city staff that the investor’s desire was not to reopen the motel.
Draper, who also represented the former owner, developer Edward “Skip” Tovornik Jr., before the property was foreclosed upon, said this new investor has plans similar to Tovornik, specifically to renovate the property into small- to medium-sized commercial condos for retail, office and professional space.
The “No-Tell Motel,” as Mayor David S. Gysberts referred to it Tuesday night, drew considerable police attention prior to its closure in 2005, specifically for complaints of prostitution, drug use and the presence of vagrants.
Councilman Don Munson, who supports buying the property to ensure that type of behavior does not return, said he remembers getting calls “repeatedly” from a priest of the neighboring Catholic church about what he saw taking place at the property.
“It blighted the area. It blighted the reputation of the city and it was not a very healthy situation,” he said.
“And it went downhill; created a whole lot of social problems ... prostitution was chief among them and that was extensive around that area.”
If the property is purchased by the city, Lestitian said the rear motel portion of the property along North Prospect Street could be demolished to provide space for parking and the older building on West Washington Street, which was built around 1900, could be renovated and then marketed for resale.
Councilman Lewis C. Metzner said that it’s important that the city oversees the redevelopment of the project for the protection of the city.
“It’s one thing not to do something positive for downtown,” he said. “But it’s another thing to sit back and watch the slide into an area that we cannot allow happen.”