Group seeks county funds for 'rural option'

March 13, 2000|By DAVE McMILLION, Charles Town

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - The framers of a detailed plan to protect Jefferson County's farming industry from urban development asked the Jefferson County Commissioners Thursday for $6,700 to get the program started.

cont. from news page

The money will be used to conduct workshops for farmers wanting to learn about new farming technologies, marketing strategies and estate planning, said Roger Boyer, head of the Potomac Headwaters Resource, Conservation and Development Council.

Also included would be help learning alternative techniques such as organic and "niche" farming.

The money would also be used to fund two studies that will examine the cost of services in the county based on whether Jefferson County remains an agricultural area or whether it becomes an urban area, Boyer told the commissioners.

Boyer argued with the logic that if Jefferson County experiences rapid residential growth, the tax base will grow. There are high costs associated with a growing population, Boyer said.


In other words, the county needs to realize that "cows don't go to school," he said.

Members of the Jefferson County Board of Education recently voted in favor of a proposed building moratorium in the county, saying they do not know how the county would pay for two new schools needed to serve new students that would come from a 3,300-dwelling subdivision being planned for southern Jefferson County. The commissioners turned down the moratorium.

The money being requested for the Rural Option farming plan would also be used to set up a rural economic development plan, Boyer said.

The plan would not be started until the first two steps are completed and farmers are satisfied with the progress, Boyer said.

Boyer said his group will seek a total of $67,000 to implement the Rural Option. Other funding could come from sources such private foundations, he said.

The commissioners, who are currently considering funding requests as part of budget process, did not act on the proposal.

The Rural Option is one of two efforts to save farmland in the Eastern Panhandle. A proposed farmland preservation act that was developed by a group know as the Eastern Panhandle People's Empowerment Coalition would set up protective easements on farms to protect them from sprawl.

Sen. John Unger, D-Berkeley, introduced the proposal in the Senate, where it passed. Senate Bill 209 comes up for a final vote in the House of Delegates today, Unger said.

Unger said he thinks his proposal and the Rural Option can work hand-in-hand to preserve farmland since one focuses on new agricultural practices and the other on farmland protection.

The Herald-Mail Articles