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Residents file appeal over W.Va. center's permit

August 25, 1998|By DAVE McMILLION, Charles Town

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - A group of Shepherdstown, W.Va., residents has filed an appeal regarding the newly opened Eastern Management Development Center, alleging the center is being operated as a public hotel, according to county records.

The group says the planning process for the federal training center appeared to be "manipulated to shield from public scrutiny the actual intended use," and they worry it will open up commercial development along W.Va. 480 in Shepherdstown. The facility was dedicated in July.

"Somewhere along the line, it changed. All of the sudden it pops up as a Clarion," said Ray Fournier, who lives across the street from the entrance to the training center along W.Va. 480. Fournier is one of six people who signed the appeal.

In the appeal, filed with the Jefferson County Board of Zoning Appeals, the group is asking that the facility be "limited to the uses set out in the application."

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The Eastern Management Development Center was designed as a training facility for senior, upper-level employees of the federal government, according to the appeal. The 155,000-square-foot complex on 37 acres has about 174 sleeping rooms, a dining facility, four large classrooms, 20 smaller classrooms and offices for a permanent government staff. It also features a resource center, a technology center and a business center.

Before it opened, it was advertised as a Clarion Hotel and Conference Center, according to planning records.

"In this instance, the public was at no time made aware of the contemplated use. Indeed the application process was subverted from beginning to end in order to mask the real intended use from the public," the group alleged in its appeal.

Kenneth Lowe, the developer of the project, could not be reached for comment Monday.

Paul J. Raco, director of planning and zoning for the county, said he reviewed the process used to approve the project and determined that the facility is consistent with the permit that was issued for its construction.

"Although the developer never mentioned the name of a hotel, they made it perfectly clear that all portions of the facility would be open to the public," Raco said in a letter to J. Davitt McAteer of Shepherdstown, a member of the group who signed the appeal.

Those who filed the appeal and the developers are expected to present their sides of the issue at a Nov. 19 meeting of the Board of Zoning Appeals.

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