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Charles Town, W.Va., annexes new development sites

January 08, 2002

Charles Town, W.Va., annexes new development sites



By DAVE McMILLION / Staff Writer, Charles Town


Under an agreement that calls for money to be paid to the city and to the county school system, the Charles Town City Council Monday night approved annexation requests that will allow the Huntfield and Norborne Glebe housing developments to become part of the city.

To help offset the increased cost of providing services to the two developments, developers of both projects agreed to pay a fee for every house built.

Developers of Norborne Glebe agreed to pay the city $500 for each house built. Huntfield developer Jim Duszynski agreed to pay $200 to the city and $500 to the county school system for each house built.

The Norborne Glebe request called for 214 acres to be added to the 178 already annexed for the 800-home development on the southwest end of the city.

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The Huntfield project involves the annexation of 1,000 acres south of Charles Town, where 3,300 homes are to be built.

The council tabled a proposal to annex eight acres between Samuel Street and W.Va. 9. A 71-unit townhouse development is proposed for that site.

Of the $700 per house to be paid by Huntfield, $500 will go to Jefferson County Schools to help the school system offset the cost of new students coming into the system. The remaining $200-per-house will be paid to the city to finance parks, recreation facilities, and pay other expenses.

Council members approved the annexations despite comments from residents that the city may be heading down a tough road if it did so.

Council member William Jordan, the only council member to vote against the Huntfield annexation, said he fears future tax increases might be needed to support developments like Huntfield, and wondered whether he could afford to retire here in coming years.

"What is the cost? Who will pay for the cost?" asked George Rutherford, president of the Jefferson County chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

Under the agreement reached between the city and the developers of Huntfield and Norborne Glebe, the city will hire its own firm to determine if the proffer amounts are enough to offset the cost of bringing the developments into the city.

If the amounts are not high enough, they can be increased, said council member Matt Ward. The developers can do their own studies if they do not agree with the amounts, Ward said.

Under the agreement, the proffer amounts will be reviewed every three years while the subdivisions are being built to determine if they are adequately offsetting costs of the developments, Ward said.

Should the city and the developers at some point be unable to agree on a proffer amount, the issue can be resolved through binding arbitration, city council members said.

Other highlights of the agreements include:

-- Huntfield developers will within 18 months produce a transportation study to identify any road improvements, hike and bike trails and commuter train stations that could reduce congestion the 3,300-home development might cause.

- Huntfield developers will attempt to come up with a plan to save open space on the southern end of Charles Town between the city and the development. The effort is meant to prevent excess commercial development.

-- Huntfield will strive to expand its commercial area from 200,000 square feet to 1 million square feet. City officials want the added commercial area to boost tax revenues and to help offset the cost of added population, said Ward.

-- Norborne Glebe will set aside more than 50 acres in that development for open space.

How to deal with a large development like Huntfield has caused extensive debate among residents and officials in the county, and that had not changed Monday.

County resident Richard Latterell said there are already plenty of housing developments being built in the county to serve new residents. Latterell said Huntfield will cover productive farmland and leave an "impoverished, dysfunctional" county in its wake.

Jim Tolbert, a local resident and president of the state chapter of the NAACP, said there are many elderly residents in town who could be hard pressed to pay for any water rate hikes that might be needed because of Huntfield.

"Try carving out a water bill from a small Social Security check every month," Tolbert said.

Although Ward was involved in many of the agreements worked out for the two developments, he said the city will never be the same.

"It's going to change the community forever. It's going to change us for generations to come," said Ward.

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