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Group sues to stop development

May 27, 1999|By DAVE McMILLION, Charles Town

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - A local conservancy group on Thursday filed a petition in Jefferson County Circuit Court to try and overturn county approval of a 203-home development near Harpers Ferry National Historical Park.

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The petition was filed over Murphy's Landing, a subdivision proposed for the School House Ridge area, where Confederate General Stonewall Jackson oversaw the capture of 12,500 Union troops in 1862.

The Harpers Ferry Conservancy, which is opposed to the subdivision, said homes will be built on the site of the conflict's main area of maneuvers.

In its petition, the conservancy claims the Jefferson County Planning Commission approved a community impact statement for Murphy's Landing that may have contained "misrepresentations" about the development.

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A community impact statement must address 21 items regarding proposed subdivisions, but four areas were not discussed for Murphy's Landing, the petition claims.

Among the items was "intended land uses." The community impact statement makes no mention of the subdivision's sewer and water plant details, according to the petition.

Although the subdivision calls for the construction of 203 homes, the developers have requested a sewage "wasteload allocation" that could serve up to 760 homes, according to the conservancy.

On the night of April 27, when the Planning Commission approved the community impact statement, people had numerous questions about the development, the petition said. But county Planning Director Paul Raco said questions from the public should have been made at a subdivision review panel meeting on April 16, the petition says.

No public notice of the April 16 meeting was published, and only a "preselected" list of agencies were notified by Raco, according to the petition.

Raco could not be reached for comment Thursday.

"We feel the process was fundamentally unfair to the public," said Paul M. Rosa, executive director of the conservancy.

In its petition, the conservancy is asking the court to declare the Planning Commission's decision on the community impact statement invalid.

The conservancy also wants another subdivision review panel meeting at which the public could ask questions about Murphy's Landing.

Until the issues can be addressed, the conservancy is asking the court to block further work on Murphy's Landing.

Scott Coyle, chairman of the planning commission, and Jefferson County Commissioner Dean Hockensmith, who also sits on the planning commission, declined to comment.

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