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Growth debate renews interest in comprehensive plan

February 17, 2000|By DAVE McMILLION, Charles Town

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - With the idea of a proposed building moratorium rejected Thursday by the Jefferson County Commissioners, the focus now turns to reviewing the county's comprehensive plan.

The comprehensive plan is a broadly worded document that fundamentally determines how the county should grow.

Any changes made to it are put into effect with new zoning laws, according to Jefferson County Commissioner Edgar Ridgeway.

Current zoning laws preserve about 80 percent of the county's land in a rural agriculture zone. The remaining land is divided into various growth zones.

The controversy that arose over a proposed building moratorium sends a clear message that the county needs to get to work on a comprehensive plan now, Commissioner James K. Ruland said Thurs day.

While growth has been an issue of concern in the county, interest intensified with the announcement last week that a Tysons Corner, Va., developer plans to build a 3,300-home subdivision south of Charles Town along U.S. 340.

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After the commission turned down the moratorium request, Ruland said he wanted the comprehensive review process to be completed as quickly as possible.

"We all want to do that," Ridgeway said.

The Jefferson County Planning Commission has laid out a five-step process for gathering public input on the comprehensive plan.

Beginning Feb. 28, the Planning Commission will hold five meetings at schools around the county to gather public input.

All the meetings will be held from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m., except for one April 8 at Jefferson High School, which will be from 10 a.m. to noon, according to the Planning Commission.

The Feb. 28 meeting will be at South Jefferson Elementary School. The others are March 8 at Blue Ridge Elementary School, March 23 at Shepherdstown Junior High School and April 18 at Harpers Ferry Junior High School.

Beginning in April, there will be roundtable discussions intended to encourage dialogue between Planning Commission members and neighborhood residents. The location and the number of the meetings has not been determined.

Planning Commission officials said they will schedule as many of the meetings as they need to ensure residents of every county neighborhood have a chance to provide input.

The third phase gives agencies and public groups a chance to offer input on issues important to them. The groups include towns, utility companies, highway departments, fire departments, police, schools, parks and others.

The fourth phase is spreading information. The Planning Commission staff will put all the input together and make it available to the County Commission and the public.

The fifth phase involves the formation of a committee to determine what steps need to be take next or which ones should be repeated.

Rough dates have been set for phases two through five, but the commission has expressed an interest in moving up the times, said Commission President James G. Knode.

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