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W.Va. counties weigh development rules

April 01, 1999|By DAVE McMILLION, Charles Town

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - More than 600 new residential building lots were approved in Berkeley and Jefferson Counties in 1998, and some officials are calling for a review of how new housing developments are regulated.

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In Berkeley County, 377 new lots for home construction were approved last year, according to an annual report from the Berkeley County Planning Commission.

The lots are equal to 352 acres.

The commission's annual report was completed on Jan. 14. Since then another 439 lots on 742 acres have been approved, according to Sherry Cunningham, administrative secretary for the Planning Commission.

In Jefferson County, 288 new lots covering 537 acres were approved, according to Jefferson County Planning Director Paul Raco.

With Berkeley County growing, Planning Commission officials are suggesting that the county rewrite its 24-year-old subdivision regulations.

The regulations have not had a comprehensive review in more than 20 years and they are "definitely outdated," said Cunningham.

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For example, there are no regulations for townhouses, which have been springing up the last year, said Cunningham.

Building lots for single-family homes have to be at least 7,500-square-feet if they public water and sewer. Because townhouses can be built on smaller lots, the requirement is often waived, said Cunningham.

But at the same time, specific regulations for townhouses are needed, said Cunningham.

The planning commission office has tried to rewrite the county's subdivision regulations, but has been hampered by a lack of staff, the report said.

"With the lack of comprehensive land-use controls in Berkeley County, the subdivision regulations are the only means currently in place to address and manage the growth being experienced in the county. It is essential that these regulations be as up-to-date as possible," said the Planning Commission report.

Unlike Jefferson County, Berkeley County does not use zoning to designate certain areas of the county for growth.

Berkeley County Commission President D. Wayne Dunham said the commissioners considered adding more money to the 1999-2000 budget for added Planning Commission staff.

But money was too tight, said Dunham.

"You just have to pick and choose what you can use the money for. We're somewhat at fault for that," said Dunham.

But Dunham, who is on the Planning Commission, agreed the subdivision regulations need to be reviewed.

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