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Dozens plead for careful growth

February 28, 2000|By DAVE McMILLION, Charles Town

SUMMIT POINT, W.Va. - The door leading to Jefferson County from rapidly growing neighbors such as Loudoun County, Va., is wide open, and the Jefferson County Planning Commission needs to start determining how it wants to deal with the growth headed this way, several residents said at a Monday night meeting.

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The comments came during the first of five meetings the Planning Commission will hold over the next three months to gather public input about how land-use laws should be designed. More than 50 residents attended the meeting at South Jefferson Elementary School.

Many said they were farmers concerned about the county being overwhelmed by development.

Several farmers asked the Planning Commission how the county plans to pay for new schools and new roads that will be needed if the county experiences rapid growth.

They also said they support impact fees as a way to pay for those additional facilities and services.

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"What are we going to do after (the county) is blacktopped over?" Jefferson County produce farmer Bill Grantham asked the Planning Commission.

Bob Tabb, a farmer who lives in Leetown, W.Va., said county residents have been generous in granting tax hikes for new schools, but the county needs to start making developers help pay for some of the school costs if growth occurs at a rapid pace.

"Some of these issues have made people speak up, and I think that's good," Tabb said.

William Slusher said the Planning Commission needs to come up with guidelines to "hold that mighty momentum" of growth. "The developers scare me," Slusher said.

While there was a large concern about how the county will deal with growth, farmers also said they want to make sure they have the right to sell some of their land to generate revenue.

The comments came as growth-related issues have been heating up in the county. A 3,300-home community is being proposed south of Charles Town along U.S. 340.

This week, Shepherdstown developer Ken Lowe said he has filed plans for a 236-home development just west of Shepherdstown, although he said he may not build it.

A group of people led by Shepherdstown, W.Va.-area resident Paul Burke recommended that the Jefferson County Commissioners put a temporary halt on new home construction until the commissioners approve tighter subdivision regulations.

The commissioners turned down the building moratorium request, saying it was too drastic of a move. The Board of Education had endorsed it.

The debate over a moratorium, however, sent a clear message to county governmentthat is needs to get to work on reviewing the county's comprehensive plan, said Jefferson County Commissioner James K. Ruland.

The comprehensive plan generally determines how and where growth should occur. Any changes in the plan are implemented through new zoning laws, planning commissioners said.

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