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W.Va. judge hears arguments over development

July 31, 1999|By DAVE McMILLION

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - A petition asking Jefferson County Circuit Court Judge Thomas W. Steptoe Jr. to overturn county approval of a controversial subdivision near Harpers Ferry National Historical Park is an effort to "derail" a developer's right to build on his property, an attorney for the project said Friday.

The Harpers Ferry Conservancy, which filed the petition over the proposed Murphy's Landing, wants the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to conduct an environmental impact study of the farm where the 203-home subdivision is to be built.

An environmental impact statement is a product of a lengthy study of a project's impact on historical and environmental areas.

Murphy's Landing would be built in the School House Ridge area, where Confederate Gen. Stonewall Jackson oversaw the capture of 12,500 troops in 1862.

The conservancy said some homes will be built where most of the maneuvering took place during the conflict.

The conservancy believes the EPA should become involved because of references to federal agencies for funding for the subdivision.

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But Martinsburg, W.Va., attorney Bob Trumbell, who is representing developers Josephine Murphy Curtis and Karen Fuller, said the references to the Farmers Home Administration and other agencies only involves the types of financing that will be available to homeowners.

Development of the subdivision will be privately funded, Trumbell told Steptoe in a hearing.

The EPA has already said that an environmental impact statement cannot be initiated.

The Harpers Ferry Conservancy wants Steptoe to overturn the Jefferson County Planning Commission's April 27 decision to accept a community impact statement for Murphy's Landing. Approval of the community impact statement means the project appears to meet county requirements, although there are several steps in the approval process.

In its petition, the conservancy claims the planning commission approved a community impact statement that may have contained "misrepresentations" about Murphy's Landing.

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.

Trumbell said the developers plan to build no more than 203 homes.

Getting a sewage wasteload allocation permit for more than double of the homes planned is "standard and customary," Trumbell said.

The night the community impact statement was accepted, people had numerous questions about the subdivision, according to the petition filed by the conservancy. But 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.

Assistant Prosecuting Attorney J. Michael Cassell, who is representing the planning commission, said minutes of the April 27 meeting show there was a lengthy discussion about the subdivison.

Steptoe said he would rule on the petition in several days.

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