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Residents appeal Harvest Hills decision

March 08, 2001

Residents appeal Harvest Hills decision



By DAVE McMILLION / Staff Writer, Charles Town


An appeal has been filed over the scoring process that is allowing developers of the controversial Harvest Hills subdivision to proceed with the project.

Because the property where the 392-unit subdivision would be built is zoned for agricultural use, the planning commission had to score it using the Land Evaluation Site Assessment test to determine if it is eligible for development.

A list of variables is used to score developments, including soil types on the land, distance to growth corridors, comprehensive plan compatibility, proximity to schools, public water availability and other factors.

A numerical score is given in each area.

For example, the purpose of assessing the proximity to schools is to avoid excessive busing of students. The further a development is away from a school, the higher the score. If a development is assessed a score of 60 or higher, the development cannot be taken before the Jefferson County Planning Commission for consideration.

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Harvest Hills scored 57.47 on the LESA test.

The people who filed the appeal over the LESA score for Harvest Hills say the scoring process is subjective, and they gave it a score of 89.47.

The 64 people who signed the appeal gave Harvest Hills higher scores for distance to growth corridors, proximity to schools, public water availability, public sewer availability and adjacent development.

For its proximity to schools, the planning commission staff gave Harvest Hills a score of 3, which means the site is less than three miles from a school.

Jefferson High School is within three miles of the proposed Harvest Hills site, but Stine said she comes up with a higher score of 12 when other schools, including elementary schools, are considered.

A hearing on the appeal has been scheduled for April 19 at 3 p.m. before the Jefferson County Zoning Board of Apppeals.

Residents near the Duffields area where Harvest Hills would be built said they are worried that the development will aggravate already congested traffic conditions along Flowing Springs Road, the main road between Charles Town and Shepherdstown that would serve the development.

Residents said Flowing Springs Road is already seeing congested conditions around a train commuter stop in Duffields.

Residents are also worried about how the development would affect farming operations in the area, particularly farmers' ability to safely move their equipment on Flowing Springs Road.

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

About 60 people attended a compatibility hearing last week to learn about the development.

Greg Corliss, one of the residents who signed the appeal, said the county's zoning laws do not make any sense to him. Parts of the county are protected from dense development, but developers are allowed to build in the areas if they pass the LESA test, Corliss said.

Corliss said it would be "ludicrous" to allow 3,200 additional cars on two-lane Flowing Springs Road, "which is already at maximum utilization."

Corliss said he is especially nervous about the county's future given the extreme growth in counties to the east of the state and some of the practices that have been put into place to manage it.

"It's terrible. That's why everyone is moving here," Corliss said.

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