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Activist says Jefferson should focus on heritage

October 26, 2000

Activist says Jefferson should focus on heritage



By BOB PARTLOW / Staff Writer, Martinsburg


RANSON, W. Va. - Jefferson County should build on its historical and environmental heritage to grow in the future, management consultant and civic activist Scot Faulkner told Rotarians here Tuesday.

"We are never going to be an industrial area," said Faulkner, a former congressional aide, employee in the federal government and Peace Corps worker. "What we have to leverage here is the environment."

Faulkner belongs to several environmental and preservation groups, but said he was speaking for himself.

He believes environmental associations lobbying and operating out of Washington, D.C., could be lured to the county with their administrative offices because of the area's history and environment. "We could attract these people because we already have these beautiful areas," he said.

He said about 100 environmental or historic organizations are based in Washington, D.C. If the county can persuade them to locate in Jefferson County, others might come. About 3,900 associations have a presence in the nation's Capitol, he said. Start with a few associations and build from there, he suggested.

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"You would start building a critical mass," he said. "It builds on itself."

Faulkner also said the county should "preserve a viable farm economy" by taking steps to ensure its traditional agricultural base remains strong. He suggested exempting farm machinery and products from personal property taxes as one step and using county funds to match federal dollars for farmland preservation as another.

He also suggested the county must charge enough in fees from developers to pay for the impacts of their development, especially residential development.

"When you tax something, it tends to go away," he said. "When you subsidize it, it tends to expand. The one thing we are subsidizing more than anything else in this county is residential building. We are not even recovering our costs." He said the new growth should pay for itself.

One member of the audience suggested Faulkner was the beneficiary of people had come before him and provided the public water service he enjoys.

Faulkner said he was giving another side of the growth discussion after the Rotarians heard from development interests earlier this summer.

He said all sides must find a way to work together. In written material distributed before his speech, he suggested "an elite that was generations in the making" is running Jefferson County and must find a way to work with the "newcomers" that so many old-timers dislike.

"We have to work together to figure out how to craft a a real positive, energetic and business-oriented future," Faulkner said.

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