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Hunt Field to get new hearing

January 02, 2001

Hunt Field to get new hearing



By DAVE McMILLION / Staff Writer, Charles Town


CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - A judge has rejected parts of a petition filed by a Virginia developer who wants to build a controversial 3,300-home development in Jefferson County.

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At the same time, Jefferson County Circuit Judge Thomas W. Steptoe Jr. is requiring the county Planning Commission to hold another hearing on the proposed Hunt Field development.

The Hunt Field developers said the Planning Commission should not have allowed two new members to vote on the proposed development on April 25 because they were not on the commission when Hunt Field officials presented their project last March.

Steptoe said in his ruling that Hunt Field officials should have had the chance to address all members of the Planning Commission.

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In a ruling handed down Tuesday, Steptoe ordered the Planning Commission to accept a revised community impact statement from Hunt Field if the developers wish to submit one.

If Hunt Field officials submit a new statement, the Planning Commission must hold a new community impact meeting and hold another vote on the community impact statement, Steptoe ruled.

Hunt Field attorney Peter Chakmakian said he has not had a lot of time to review the decision with his clients, but believes they will submit a revised statement.

"We've lost none of our enthusiasm," Chakmakian said Tuesday night.

A community impact statement, which is typically required of developers in the county, describes the impact a subdivision will have on the county. It deals with issues such as the amount of traffic a subdivision would generate.

Although the Planning Commission staff recommended approval of Hunt Field's community impact statement, it rejected it April 25, saying services like public schools and fire and police protection would not be able to handle the influx of people Hunt Field would bring.

Hunt Field developers filed a petition challenging the decision.

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

The argument 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.

Steptoe rejected the argument, saying county governments have been granted a "portion of the state's general police powers in order to carry out their statutory duties."

Greenvest officials also argued that Planning Commission members exceeded their authority in rejecting the community impact statement by considering other issues that they should not have relied on.

In deciding whether to accept a community impact statement, the Planning Commission is to consider 10 points, including coordination of subdivision streets with existing streets, provisions for water, sewer and schools.

In the case of Hunt Field, the Planning Commission also insisted that the developer provide market surveys, anticipated project costs, funding sources, estimates of expected changes in property values and other information.

The information is required under the county's subdivision laws, according to Steptoe's ruling.

"This court sees no danger in the Planning Commission members' consideration of all the factors set forth in the subdivision ordinance's CIS provisions. And the court believes that the ordinance is justified in requesting information on all of those factors," Steptoe wrote.

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

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