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Jefferson Co. candidates face off

March 21, 2000|By DAVE McMILLION, Charles Town

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - Several local candidates for the Jefferson County Commission and state Legislature said during a forum for voters Monday night they support impact fees and luring more business to the county to help prepare the area for growth.

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County Commission candidates also said that the county's comprehensive plan needs to be crafted in a way to give residents the community they want for the future.

A good comprehensive plan will ensure Jefferson County is "not overrun like Berkeley County," said Jane Tabb, a Republican running for one open seat on the County Commission.

A comprehensive plan is a broadly worded document that generally determines how the county should grow. Items in the comprehensive plan are implemented through zoning laws, which can direct where growth occurs in the county.

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"It's not so much controlling (growth), but making it more conducive to what we want to do in the county," said Bob Tabb, a Democrat running for Del. John Doyle's seat.

The forum was sponsored by the Home Owners Coalition, a newly created organization that helps home owner associations in subdivisions deal with issues such as managing common areas and roads, said Jeanette VanBelleghem.

The organization represents more than 100 subdivisions in Berkeley and Jefferson counties, she said.

The Home Owners Coalition asked candidates what kind of growth they favor over the next 10 years and how it will be achieved.

George Quinn, a Republican running for Del. Dale Manuel's seat, said it will "be really hard" to stop growth. But passing building codes in the county will help slow the growth rate and make sure builders are not "throwing houses together," Quinn said.

Manuel, D-Jefferson, said the state Local Powers Act, which gives counties the ability to charge impact fees to developers, needs refinement to help counties manage growth.

Money generated by impact fees can be used by local government pay for new schools and other services needed because of growth.

Fred Blackmer, a Republican running for Manuel's seat, said the county's growth rate "should be held at whatever Jefferson County can afford."

Bob Ott, a Democrat running for the County Commission, said the county "missed the boat" years ago in controlling growth in the county. If impact fees and building codes are the only way to control growth, then that's what the county needs, Ott said.

Bill Hoak, a Democrat running for County Commission, agreed that the county should only allow a growth rate it can afford. He said the commissioners need to determine how the county can "constructively grow," although their hands are often tied by state law.

Impact fees, building codes, and luring more businesses to the county to increase the tax base are the priorities for Delores Milstead, a Democratic County Commission candidate.

When county residents need an ambulance or fire protection, they need to feel assured the service is available, Milstead said.

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