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EPA intervenes on plant permit for Murphy's Landing

May 18, 2001

EPA intervenes on plant permit for Murphy's Landing



By GEOFF BROWN / Staff Writer


Opponents of the proposed Murphy's Landing development near Harpers Ferry, W.Va. enjoyed a victory this week with some powerful help: Uncle Sam.

Citing concerns about environmental impact and historical preservation, the federal Environmental Protection Agency stepped in and asserted its authority over the state to review a permit for a sewage plant for the 188-home development on the Murphy's Farm property. The property is the site of an important Civil War battlefield and of John Brown's fort.

Bolivar, W.Va., resident Paul Rosa, executive director of the Harpers Ferry Conservancy, and a vocal critic of the development, said the EPA was right to step in.

"There are specific circumstances here. It's not like the EPA is running around willy-nilly" blocking treatment plants.

A development on the site, including a proposed 182-foot water tower, would be an eyesore for residents as well as for tourists visiting the nearby national park, and for the thousands of rafters who pass it on the river, he said.

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"It's not just our history, it's our whole tourist-based economy," Rosa said.

"We're not opposed to growth," he said. "We think that it should be managed and should be in the proper place."

Rosa said West Virginia has $2 million in federal money to buy land near Harpers Ferry, and he wants the state to make the owners of Murphy's Farm an offer.

"Save our history. There's money there to do it, Rosa said."

An attorney for the owners said they are considering their next step.

Charles Town's James Tolbert, head of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People in West Virginia, said the John Brown fort site has been a shrine since 1906, when early Civil Rights leaders visited it.

"If there's development there, that particular shrine will be lost forever. If there is development there, there will be desecration soon thereafter. We think this is of national significance."

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