Middletown accepts land gifts from Bernstein Foundation

On Monday, Middletown accepted a gift of several parcels of land from the Bernstein Family Foundation Inc.

At Monday’s meeting, town council voted unanimously to accept the gift, with the total plots of land having an assessed worth of $57,200.

Town zoning administrator Fred Wharton said the parcels of land were properties that the foundation could not do anything with.

Mayor Charles Harbaugh IV said the gifts are “a big win for the town of Middletown.”

The parcels are several different segments of land located beyond town limits on the other side of Meadow Brook. To do anything with the land, the town must first get permission from Frederick County.

“We’re thrilled about the possibility of having these lots. It’s not often that towns get donated land,” Harbaugh added.

Harbaugh said that he had been working with Greg Rooney, vice president of the Bernstein Companies, and that these were pieces of land Rooney wanted to “get off of his books.”

“We were interested in having [the land], because it creates more opportunity for us,” Harbaugh said. He also noted that the town will have to figure out what to do with the land at a later date.

Also at the meeting, Middletown resident Tess Clem — who is a former president of the Middletown Heritage Society — urged the council to “authorize the town attorney to research the deeds of the old historic church on Senseney Avenue.”

The ownership of this particular Methodist church has been subject of debate for some time. Harbaugh said the church is “the oldest left standing.”

Harbaugh mentioned after the meeting that the town will be researching the matter as well as looking into funding for renovations.

“Wharton is leaving it up to me and the council to find out what to do with this building,” Harbaugh noted. “We’ve got to find some way of revitalizing it, whether that’s through grants … we’ve got to find a way to save this building.”

Both Harbaugh and Wharton noted that the building, which is technically considered a Methodist church, is in great need of several renovations.

“It’s deteriorating badly … the logs need to be chinked and weatherproofed and it needs a new roof,” Wharton said. “It’s salvageable if it had some maintenance done on it.”

Essentially, Wharton said the problem with funding any renovation is establishing ownership and then negotiating with the owners for the right to renovate.

According to Wharton, the church exchanged owners and titles several times over the years and ownership has proven difficult to establish over the past decade.

Until ownership of the church is established, the town will not be able to apply for grants for the renovations needed.

Also at Monday’s meeting, the town approved a motion of proclamation for Northern Shenandoah Valley Disability Awareness Week.

Harbaugh mentioned that this proclamation is something that is “near and dear” to him.

“I’m the business manager at NW Works in Winchester … and the job of NW Works is to employ people with disabilities,” Harbaugh said. “Every day, I live that proclamation.”

Harbaugh added, “The thought [is] that we need to get as much work as we can for these people with disabilities.”

Contact staff writer Kevin Green at 540-465-5137 ext. 155, or kgreen@nvdaily.com