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Development draws fire

February 28, 2001

Development draws fire



By DAVE McMILLION / Staff Writer, Charles Town

photo: RIC DUGAN / staff photographer

Development oppositionCHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - Area residents told the developers of a proposed 392-home subdivision along Flowing Springs Road Wednesday they fear the development will aggravate already congested traffic conditions on the road.

Residents said they also are concerned about how the development, which would be built in an agricultural zone, will affect farming operations in the area.

About 60 people attended a compatibility hearing for the Harvest Hills subdivision Wednesday morning. The hearing gave property owners a chance to hear the developer's description of the project and to ask questions.

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Harvest Hills would be built near a commuter train stop at Duffields, and the developers feel the development would be attractive for people who commute to work.

But residents said the train stop is already congested with traffic and said they fear the development would make the conditions worse.

Tom Trumble said when he moved into his house near Duffields two years ago there was hardly any congestion at the train stop.

Now the stop is jammed with people and cars, he said.

"The problem gets worse every month. You can feel it," Trumble said.

Mike Shepp of Appalachian Surveys Inc., who spoke on behalf of the developers, said the builders plan to move the train stop onto a 7-acre site.

Moving the train stop onto a larger piece of property means people will be able to board and exit trains in a safer area instead of walking on Flowing Springs Road, as they do now.

Trumble said moving the train stop amounts to "rearranging the deck chairs on this Titanic." He said the real issue is that Flowing Springs Road cannot handle the amount of traffic that Harvest Hills would bring.

The developers have agreed to a number of conditions, some suggested by residents, relating to safety and traffic.

There are two sharp turns in Flowing Springs Road near Jefferson High School, and the developers have agreed to pay for straightening the two sections of road, Shepp said. The state Department of Highways is studying some design options for the project, Shepp said.

The developers also agreed to:

- Notify all prospective home-buyers in the development of possible odors and noise they might experience because of nearby farming operations. One person wanted residents to be notified of the "right to farm" in the area.

- Cooperate with local train enthusiasts to help save a nearby historic train station that was built in 1839.

- Consider placing some type of buffer around historical areas in the Duffields area.

- Consider installing a broadband communications network in the development so people can telecommute.

A number of issues are unresolved and are expected to be considered at a public hearing on March 27 at 7:30 p.m. One issue is that the developers' reluctance to reduce the density of the development.

Several farmers and farming experts expressed concerns such as being able to safely move their farming equipment on Flowing Springs Road after the development were completed, which would take about 10 years.

Harvest Hills is expected to generate about 3,200 car trips a day.

"I can say, with some certainty, that the road is not adequate for the development," said Greg Corliss, whose cattle farm is about two miles from the development site.

Houses in Harvest Hills will sell for between $220,000 and $245,000, and one man remarked that no one in the county would be able to afford to buy one.

"If this goes through, there will be another farm sale and another farm sale. It won't stop," the man said.

Only limited development is allowed in an agricultural zone. To build a development the size of Harvest Hills, the developers must obtain a conditional use permit from the planning commission.

Arcadia Development Co. of Leesburg, Va., the developer of the project, has set aside 23 acres for a school. David Hardy, who lives in the nearby Steeplechase subdivision, asked Shepp about what kind of school would be built there.

Shepp said that would be up to the Jefferson County Board of Education.

"There's not going to be a school built on this site the way voters are voting now," said Hardy, referring to the decision by county voters to turn down a proposed $39 million school construction bond issue last September.

Contacted later in the day, Board of Education President Larry Togans said the developers have not talked to the board about the school site.

"What we have heard about it we read in the paper," Togans said.

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