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Jefferson struggles with growth issues

July 20, 2000

Jefferson struggles with growth issues



By DAVE McMILLION / Staff Writer, Charles Town


BARDANE, W.Va. - The Jefferson County Commissioners will continue to seek changes in the state Local Powers Act to help them more effectively deal with growth challenges facing the county.

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The decision follows a Thursday meeting with Berkeley and Morgan county commissioners to discuss state legislative priorities.

The Local Powers Act gives counties a variety of powers they currently do not have, such as the right to impose impact fees.

Impact fees, which the Jefferson County Commissioners are considering, would allow counties to charge impact fees to developers to help counties pay for new services demanded by growth.

The issue has been getting more attention in the county recently with the announcement of three new major subdivisions in the county, including the 3,300-home Hunt Field development proposed for along U.S. 340 south of Charles Town.

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To have increased authority under the Local Powers Act, counties must meet state requirements, such as zoning, a comprehensive plan, a subdivision ordinance, a capital improvements plan and building codes.

Jefferson County has met most of the requirements except building codes, and is looking for flexibility in the building codes requirement, said Del. Dale Manuel, D-Jefferson.

At a meeting Thursday in Bardane, the Jefferson County officials - along with the Berkeley County and Morgan County commissioners - discussed their priorities for the next regular session of the West Virginia Legislature, among those priorities making the state Local Powers Act work for them.

While Jefferson County would like to explore embracing more local control measures, the Berkeley County Commissioners said they are considering abandoning the Local Powers Act to get the local control they want.

Although the Local Powers Act requires zoning, Berkeley County Commissioner Robert L. Burkhart said the issue has no support in his county.

Burkhart said the county might support a new state law that would give the county local control over issues it is having problems with, like noise complaints.

Currently, counties cannot pass their own noise ordinances.

Berkeley County Commissioner Wayne Dunham said the commissioners are getting increased noise complaints about motorcycle tracks and similar operations. As long as the tracks meet planning commission regulations, the commissioners cannot do anything about them, Dunham said.

The three county commissions also agreed to support a bill that would tie payment of fire and ambulance fees to motor vehicle registration renewals.

Counties have the authority to implement fire and ambulance fees, but there has been difficulty getting everyone to pay the fees. Under the bill being considered, any motorist who has not paid an ambulance fee or fire fee would be prohibited from getting their motor vehicle registration renewed.

Berkeley County has fire and ambulance fees and Jefferson County is considering an ambulance fee.

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