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Jefferson County to hold meeting on growth issues

January 24, 2001

Jefferson County to hold meeting on growth issues



By DAVE McMILLION / Staff Writer, Charles Town


SHEPHERDSTOWN, W.Va. - Growth in the Eastern Panhandle and how to manage it in coming years will be the focus of a public discussion Saturday afternoon at Shepherd College.

The intent of the meeting is to identify different growth management tools and how those could be used in the Eastern Panhandle, according to Roger Boyer, project coordinator for the Potomac Headwaters Resource Conservation and Development Region.

Several experts will speak on land-use issues, including West Virginia University professor Randy Rosenberger and Jefferson County extension agent Craig Yohn, according to Boyer.

It is important that Yohn be there to speak about agriculture since much of the Panhandle is still made up of open space, Boyer said.

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A cross-section of local officials have been invited to the session, including all the county commissions in the Panhandle, all the planning commissions, mayors, developers, historic preservation officials, farmers, educators and others, Boyer said.

Issues related to growth have increasingly come to the forefront of discussions in recent years as the Eastern Panhandle has started to witness population increases.

Most recently, a study that suggests wells in some sections of Berkeley County have more than a 60 percent chance of being contaminated with bacteria has sparked fresh debates about how land planning should be conducted there.

In Jefferson County, where the Board of Education has been struggling to find enough money to build new schools, elected officials are considering implementing impact fees to help pay for the additional services growth requires.

Boyer said other issues that have thrust the issue to the forefront include the proposed 3,300-home Hunt Field development in Jefferson County and the recent decision by the state to set up a farmland protection board to save farmland, particularly in the Eastern Panhandle.

"All these things are happening and there needs to be a concerted effort to guide growth. Right now, for all intents and purposes, there is none," Boyer said Wednesday.

After formal presentations are made, everyone attending the session will be divided into groups of about 10 to draw up a list of concerns and how they should be addressed, Boyer said.

How the information is used is up in the air, Boyer said.

Planning Commission representatives and elected officials could take the information back to their home counties for use, Boyer said. Or maybe someone at the session will take a leadership role and lead an effort to put some of the ideas in place, Boyer said.

"When you have something like this, you're not really sure what the outcome will be," Boyer said.

The session, which is open to the public, will be held from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. at the Storer Ballroom in the Shepherd College Student Center.

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