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W.Va. residents ponder effect of housing development

March 29, 2000|By DAVE McMILLION, Charles Town

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - About 125 people turned out for a Jefferson County Planning Commission public hearing Tuesday night on the impact the 3,300-home Hunt Field development south of Charles Town would have on the community.

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County residents and local school officials expressed concern about the cost of new schools that developments the size of Hunt Field would require, about how the county's agricultural business would be affected by the growth and about how Hunt Field would affect traffic.

The Planning Commission was required to hold the public hearing on a community impact statement provided by representatives of Greenvest L.C., the Vienna, Va., company developing Hunt Field.

The impact statement provides details about how the planned community, which would include commercial areas, would be developed and how it would affect the area.

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The Planning Commission can accept the impact statement, accept it with conditions, or reject it.

So many people showed up that the meeting was moved from the County Meeting Room to the adjacent Jefferson County Courthouse.

Many of the 40 people who signed up to speak urged the Planning Commission to delay action on the community impact statement.

After hearing more than three hours of public testimony, the Planning Commission decided to delay a decision and keep the public comment period on the project open until April 17.

Some speakers said they do not think project planners have determined how the community would affect traffic on W.Va. 9.

Jefferson County Schools Superintendent David Markoe said he is "extremely concerned" about how the Jefferson County Board of Education would pay for new school construction to offset several large subdivisions, including Hunt Field, that have been proposed for the county.

By the seventh or eighth year of development at Hunt Field, the county would have to build two elementary schools at a cost of about $13 million to offset student growth, Markoe told the Jefferson County Planning Commission.

It is doubtful the state would pay the entire cost, Markoe said.

Markoe said Greenvest has expressed a willingness to find ways to offset the cost of school construction in the county.

"And I think that absolutely has to be done if we want to keep pace with growth," Markoe told the Planning Commission.

"Table this until you know what the answers are," said Board of Education member Peter Morgens.

Planning Commission member Lyle "Cam" Tabb said he wants to study issues relating to sewer service for the development.

Jim Duszynski, senior vice president of Greenvest, said he disagrees with some statements by Board of Education members about the impact Hunt Field would have on the school system. He said county residents need to remember that Hunt Field would not have an "instant impact" because it would be developed over 18 years.

"This is not something that is going to land in Jefferson County tomorrow," Duszynski said.

Alice Van Tol, of Shepherdstown, said the county would face millions of dollars in costs for new schools, parks, libraries, police, fire and ambulance service because of developments like Hunt Field. The costs will translate into higher taxes for county residents, she said.

"Taxpayers are always left holding the bag after the developer is long gone," Van Tol said.

Marian Buckner said she is concerned that rapid development in the county will raise land values to the point where young farmers will not be able to go into the farming business. Some expressed concern that increased traffic from the development would make it harder for farmers to transport their farm equipment on local roads.

A subdivision of Hunt Field's size "can change the whole economics of a region," Buckner said.

Another speaker said the development is "simply out of scale. It's too big. It's too much," he said.

The developers of Hunt Field say traffic from the planned community is unlikely to cause major problems for downtown traffic, mostly because most traffic from the development will be routed to the Charles Town Bypass.

Shepherdstown resident Paul Burke said the developers do not present evidence that the development will not cause traffic problems downtown.

Greenvest officials say an estimated 24,450 cars will pass in and out of Hunt Field every day after it is completed.

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