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Zoning could spur rural building

June 23, 1999|By DAVE McMILLION, Charles Town

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - Privately owned federal training facilities like the Clarion Hotel and Conference Center in Shepherdstown, W.Va., could be built in the county's rural zones under land-use regulations being considered by the county.

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County Planning Director Paul Raco could not say exactly why the idea was proposed, but said a lot of privately built government facilities in Berkeley County could be the reason.

Now Jefferson County believes it is time to "grab some on this side," Raco said.

Jefferson County Planning Commission member Dean Hockensmith said Berkeley County's growth probably has been catching the attention of people in Jefferson County.

"I'm not exactly sure where it (proposal) came from," Hockensmith said.

Other Planning Commission members could not be reached for comment.

Beside's Lowe's Clarion Hotel in Shepherdstown, his Liberty Business Park just over the Berkeley County line in Baker Heights has seen tremendous growth.

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The U.S. Coast Guard moved a computing center into Liberty Business Park in 1991 and leases the 110,542-square-foot facility from Lowe for about $22 per square foot.

The Internal Revenue Service operates two data centers in the park, and the federal agency is finishing an $86 million computing center.

Lowe's Clarion Hotel and Conference Center also serves as the Eastern Management Development Center, a training facility for upper-level employees of the federal government.

The federal Office of Management and Budget leases the hotel off W.Va. 45 from Lowe for its training.

When the federal government is not using the complex, it is open to the public.

Considering the tax revenues the county receives from the Clarion, it is no surprise the county is considering allowing similar facilities in the rural zone, Lowe said Wednesday.

The complex generates $192,000 annually in real estate and personal property taxes, said Lowe.

"From their standpoint, does it make sense? I think so. They don't get deals like that too often," he said.

However, Lowe said he was not familiar with the county's plans to allow government facilities in the rural zone.

In 1988, the county passed zoning laws that preserved more than 80 percent of its land in a rural agriculture zone.

Developers who want to build in the restricted areas must successfully pass the Land Evaluation Site Assessment system before they can build.

The assessment involves a point system in which developer are either penalized or credited for requirements they can or cannot meet.

Raco said he did not know of any plans to build another federal training facility in the area, although he said the idea of privately-owned facilities is growing.

Letting a private developer build a complex is a cheaper way for the federal government to run its facilities, said Raco.

"It's seems to be a trend nationwide," Raco said.

The proposed zoning change is one of several being considered by the Planning Commission.

County residents packed a public hearing two weeks ago to express concerns about some of the changes, including a proposal to allow farmers to do their own meat processing.

The proposal followed a Shepherdstown area farmer's plan to open a controversial hog processing facility on his land. Neighbors worried about odor from the plant and about waste from Shannon Donley's operation reaching underground water supplies.

People at the public hearing questioned whether there would be a limit on the amount of meat farmers could process.

Hockensmith said there was not any consideration to implement a weight limit.

There was also a concern about a zoning change that would limit schools in the county to traditional private and public ones.

Police and owners of the Summit Point Raceway are worried how the change would affect the track's proposal to expand a school designed to train police to do high-speed car maneuvers.

Raco said a proposed change in the zoning laws that would allow a "nonconforming" facility to expand up to 35 percent would help places like Summit Point Raceway.

The track is considered a nonconforming use because it is in the rural zone.

Tuesday night, track representatives requested that the facility have unlimited race-related development, said Raco.

The commission did not comment immediately on the track's request, Raco said.

The Jefferson County Planning Commission has extended the written comment period on the proposed amendments to the Zoning and Development Review Ordinance until July 6 at 5 p.m. Copies of the proposed amendments can be picked up free of charge at the Planning Commission office at 104 E. Washington St., Charles Town.

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