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Bank, developer fight rejection of Hunt Field

May 22, 2000|By DAVE McMILLION, Charles Town

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - The Jefferson County Planning Commission "applied erroneous principles of law, was plainly wrong in its factual findings, and has acted beyond its powers and jurisdiction" in rejecting a community impact statement for the 3,300-home Hunt Field development, a petition challenging the decision in court alleges.

Among the arguments in the nine-page petition filed by F&M Bank of Winchester, Va., and Greenvest L.C., the developers of Hunt Field, is that state law does not allow the Planning Commission to require a community impact statement from a developer.

The argument is based on the Dillon Rule, a state law that basically says a county is not entitled to any powers unless they are expressly spelled out by state government.

A community impact statement, which is typically required from housing developers in the county, describes what impact a subdivision will have on the county, dealing with issues such as the amount of traffic that would be generated.

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The petition, filed Monday in Jefferson County Circuit Court, asks the court to either rule that the community impact statement portion of the county's zoning ordnance is "without legal effect" or that the commission's decision was illegal.

County residents and the Jefferson County Board of Education 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.

On April 25, the Planning Commission rejected the community impact statement for Hunt Field, saying services such as public schools and fire and police protection could not handle the influx of people.

Planning Commissioner Lyle "Cam" Tabb, who made the motion to reject it, said while Hunt Field will include 3,300 homes, the Charles Town's sewer plant - which would serve the development - has the capacity to serve only 2,200 additional homes.

Peter Chakmakian, a local attorney who is representing Greenvest in the petition, takes exception with the Planning Commission's stance on the sewer capacity issue. The position makes it appear that the county has an adequate public facilities ordinance, which it does not, Chakmakian said.

Although rejection of a community impact statement does not prohibit a developer from proceeding with a housing development, it's an issue Hunt Field feels compelled to address, according to Chakmakian.

"We don't feel comfortable going all the way ... with this hanging over our head," Chakmakian said Monday.

Circuit Judge Thomas W. Steptoe Jr. has set a hearing for June 9 for the petition.

Jefferson County Planning Director Paul Raco said Monday he cannot comment on the petition.

Scott Coyle, president of the commission, could not be reached for comment.

Other arguments in the petition include:

* Two new members of the Planning Commission - David Hammer and Mark Schiavone - were allowed to vote on the community impact statement although neither was a member of the Planning Commission when it held a public hearing March 25 to consider the project.

* No written findings of fact or conclusions of law have been issued by the commission in regard to the rejection of the statement.

The 1,000-acre site off U.S. 340 south of Charles Town where Hunt Field would be built is owned by F&M Bank-Winchester. Greenvest has a purchase agreement with F&M to buy the land.

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