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Planners reject Hunt Field

April 25, 2000|By DAVE McMILLION, Charles Town

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - The Jefferson County Planning Commission narrowly rejected the community impact statement for the proposed 3,300-home Hunt Field development Tuesday night, saying schools, fire and police departments cannot handle the influx of people the subdivision would bring.

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The 6-5 vote came during a meeting in which Planning Commission members cited sections of law regarding land-use issues, debated how all further development would be regulated in the county and took stabs at the Jefferson County Board of Education.

"Right now, it's just the wrong time," said Planning Commission member Mark Schiavone, who read off a list of agencies that said they could not handle the population increase from Hunt Field.

Jefferson County Schools officials have said they do not have the money to build the new schools that Hunt Field would require; West Virginia State Police have said they are understaffed in the county; and the Independent Fire Company in Ranson says it can't guarantee it would be able to respond to emergencies in a timely manner if Hunt Field were developed, Schiavone said.

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Jim Duszynski, senior vice president of Greenvest L.C., the Vienna, Va., firm proposing the development, walked out of the meeting after the decision and would not comment.

The Planning Commission's vote on a subdivision's community impact statement is designed to give the builder the commission's "informal disposition" toward the developer's project, according to the county's subdivision ordinance.

The community impact statement is reviewed in the early phase of a development before the builder has put a lot of money into surveying and engineering studies.

Rejection of the community impact statement does not necessarily kill the project, said Planning Commission member David Hammer.

The developer can come before the Planning Commission again to present new information about concerns Planning Commission members have about the project, Hammer said.

County residents and Board of Education members have been concerned about the cost of new schools that Hunt Field would require, how the county's agricultural business would be affected by the growth and how the development would affect traffic in the county.

An engineer with the state Department of Environmental Protection said Charles Town's sewage treatment plant would not be able to handle all the sewage from Hunt Field.

Planning Commission member Lyle "Cam" Tabb, who made the motion to reject the community impact statement, said while Hunt Field would include 3,300 homes, the sewer plant only has capacity to serve 2,200 additional homes. In addition to the 3,300 homes in Hunt Field, there is a proposed new high school on the Hunt Field property and the newly proposed 1,427-home Norborne Glebe development in Charles Town that will also need sewer service from the city, Tabb said.

"So many unanswered questions, so many impacts on the community," said Planning Commission member Matt Ward.

Planning Commission member Renny Smith said there are "an awful lot of capacity problems in the county right now."

At times, the discussion about Hunt Field generated debate about where the county's land-use regulation is heading.

Sam Donley asked Ward what size of development he thinks would be appropriate for the county. If the county is going to decide it only wants subdivisions of a certain size, it might as well "tell all the developers to, 'Hit the road, Jack.'"

Planning Commission member Arnie Dailey said the Board of Education should not have been surprised to see a major project such as Hunt Field proposed in the county.

"Perhaps the Board of Education needs to pick up the ball," said Planning Commission member Ginger Burcker.

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