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Citizens Coalition still opposes bypass

January 10, 2001

Citizens Coalition still opposes bypass



By BOB PARTLOW / Staff Writer, Martinsburg


MARTINSBURG, W. Va. - The Berkeley County Citizens Coalition will continue to oppose the proposed state highway bypass around Martinsburg, leaders said at their first meeting of the year Tuesday night.

But they will likely broaden their concerns to include other growth and environmental issues that have come to their attention in discussions over the proposed new four-lane road.

"It's not just the road, it's what it brings with it that we're so concerned about," said Cheryl Long, a member of the board of directors and treasurer of the group.

Members are particularly concerned about the kinds of toxics that might be carried along the road, or the kind of chemical industries that are being attracted to Berkeley County, she and others said.

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"Now it's like this big picture - we have so many concerns about so many things," she said.

She said the group hopes to form good working relationships with local elected officials such as new Berkeley County Commission President Howard Strauss, who attended the meeting Tuesday. He said the county has not had many groups in the past that have raised the kinds of issues being brought out by this group.

"There's more environmental concerns today because of the growth, the new industries that are coming into Berkeley County," Strauss said. "Industry means we're going to have a good tax base here. It means good revenue. But we want to have clean industry. It's a balancing act."

Kathryn Murphy, active in the coalition, said she has become less opposed to the bypass. The state has proposed several alternatives, which generally start near the Eastern Regional Jail on W.Va. 9 and swing north and west toward Interstate 81 at Exit 16. But she stressed any route must be done right, and only after much public comment.

Coalition members talked about a possible new alternative route the state is discussing that might affect fewer homes and businesses, but could affect more farmland and woods and come out at a new Exit 17 on I-81 north of Martinsburg. The state is expected to unveil some new proposed routes this winter.

Murphy said the group's expansion into other areas is to be expected.

"I think it's a natural evolution," she said. "The more you know, the more frightening it becomes. Maybe we need to work with the politicians to make sure the right kind of development comes to the county. We don't want to become the dumping ground for the rest of West Virginia."

The group heard from Bob Gordon, a transportation planner for the Region IX Planning and Development Council and for the Hagerstown-Eastern Panhandle Metropolitan Planning Organization.

He said growth is coming and planning needs to be done to handle it. The Eastern Panhandle poses real challenges to state leaders because of the huge growth here compared to the rest of the state, he said.

"Charleston is facing a real nightmare here," he said. "We're facing real growth here when (the rest of the state) is not. We're facing sprawl when the rest of the state is not."

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