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Jefferson Co. moves toward impact fees

March 02, 2000|By DAVE McMILLION, Charles Town

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - The Jefferson County Commissioners took their first step Thursday night toward complying with the Local Powers Act, a lengthy and complex state law that gives the commissioners the authority to implement impact fees.

The fees, charged to developers when they build new homes, could help the county offset the costs that come with population growth, including schools, sewer lines and such services as police and fire protection.

Commissioner Al Hooper volunteered to meet with home builders in the county to determine what they would like building codes to include.

Building codes are one of five requirements a county must meet before it can implement impact fees under the Local Powers Act.

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Counties must also have zoning, a capital improvements plan and a comprehensive plan, and they must be able to prove rapid growth, according to Commissioners President James G. Knode.

Jefferson County has zoning and a comprehensive plan. A capital improvement plan and building codes were written six years ago but were never implemented, according to County Planning Director Paul Raco.

The commissioners believe the building codes and capital improvement plan drafted six years ago could be a framework for new versions.

The discussion about impact fees comes as three major housing developments have been announced for Jefferson County in the last three weeks.

The Hunt Field development south of Charles Town, the Norborne Glebe development in Charles Town and the Federal Hills subdivision near Shepherdstown would bring up to 4,963 new homes to the county, according to plans.

Commissioner James K. Ruland has been leading the discussion about the Local Powers Act. Although parts of the law appear difficult to meet, at least the county can defend itself against comments that "we aren't doing everything we can" to prepare for growth, he said.

"We just need to get started with doing something," Ruland told the commissioners during Thursday night's meeting.

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