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Reaction mixed on nixed Hunt Field

April 27, 2000|By DAVE McMILLION, Charles Town

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - Slow-growth advocates who have urged Jefferson County leaders to rethink the way they handle development are applauding the Planning Commission's rejection Tuesday of the proposed 3,300-home Hunt Field subdivision's community impact statement.

One described the action as one that will be remembered as a "landmark" in the county's history.

Vicki Faulkner, who regularly attends county government meetings to express concerns about growth, said the vote makes her hopeful some Planning Commission members are starting to appreciate concerns she shares with other slow-growth advocates.

"It was an outstanding meeting. The process was just as close to perfect as we could get it," said Faulkner.

"I'm still in a state of some shock," said Norie Huddle, who also regularly attends county government meetings to express concerns about growth issues.

Huddle said it was refreshing to see the commissioners were not interested in simply "rubber-stamping" recommendations from the county planning staff when reviewing projects.

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By rejecting the community impact statement, the Planning Commission may have killed the project as it was intended to be built, saying schools and fire and police departments could not handle the influx of people Hunt Field would bring.

The development, which would include 3,300 homes, a shopping center and an office complex, has brought concerns from Jefferson County Board of Education members, who said they did not know how to pay for new schools to serve the development.

The issues came to a head at Tuesday's Planning Commission meeting, which was marked by debates over case law regarding land-use issues and discussions of how all previous development will be viewed in the county.

Board of Education member Doris Cline, one of four board members who voted in favor of a 60-day building moratorium after Hunt Field was proposed, said she was not opposed to Hunt Field, which was to be built on 1,000 acres just south of Charles Town. Cline said she simply wanted to emphasize the school system needs time to plan for growth.

"I definitely think we need to be assured that water, sewer and schools need to be in the consideration package as we go along," Cline said Wednesday.

A county organization whose members work in jobs related to home building said the county already has good land-use laws in place. People who were alarmed by Hunt Field should have offered constructive input on how to manage growth rather than "wasting time and energy generating scare tactics," Lee Snyder, president of Jefferson County Citizens for Economic Preservation, said in a letter to the Planning Commission.

Snyder said the Planning Commission has invested a lot of time in land-use regulations that direct growth into "appropriate corridors" in the county that are served by major road networks and public safety services.

Snyder questioned how people who have moved into the county recently can seek to deny others from doing the same with a "clear conscience."

"We didn't complain when they moved here," said Terri Capriotti, whose husband is a home builder in the county. Capriotti said controlled-growth activists fail to realize many workers depend on the home building business to put food on their family's tables.

It is unclear whether the Vienna, Va.-based developers of Hunt Field will draw up a new community impact statement and propose the subdivision again. Jim Duszynski, senior vice president of Greenvest L.C., did not return a phone call Wednesday. He walked out of Tuesday night's Planning Commission meeting without comment after the 6-5 vote to reject the impact statement.

The vote does not necessarily kill the project. Instead it means the Planning Commission finds it "unsuitable," Planning Director Paul Raco said.

If Greenvest moved forward with Hunt Field, it would run the risk of not being able to meet requirements the Planning Commission could impose, he said.

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