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Some developers attack Tustian planning report

March 20, 2002|BY DAVE McMILLION

CHARLES TOWN, Wa. Va. - Some officials associated with Jefferson County's housing industry blasted a proposed comprehensive plan Tuesday night that calls attention to ground water problems in the county and suggests that development be greatly restricted in some areas.

Mike Shepp, a surveyor in the county, said he believed the proposed comprehensive plan written by Richard Tustian of Tustian and Associates "failed miserably" in being objective.

Tustian said in the report that the county's well water is significantly contaminated with dangerous chemicals and biological elements, and the most significant problem facing the county is fractured underground rock that allows substances to seep into ground water.

Shepp said there's nothing like that in the reports he has read.

"Where does this come from?" Shepp asked.

Shepp also said that Tustian erroneously refers to zoning terms in his report, which he believes shows his "inherent bias," and his suggestion that development in some sections of the county be limited to one house per 10 acres seems to be a number he "pulled out of the air."

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"I ask you to reject this plan in its entirety," Shepp told the Jefferson County Planning Commission during a public hearing at the Jefferson County Courthouse.

About 80 people came to the hearing.

Charles Town attorney Peter Chakmakian told Tustian he didn't like his plan.

Chakmakian said if the county restricted home building to one house per 10 acres, houses would cost upward of $400,000, making it impossible for many people to live in the county.

"If you want a county that will turn its back on affordable housing, by all means accept the Tustian report," said Chakmakian, who represents many developers.

Others supported Tustian's report, saying ground water pollution has long been an issue in the county and that Tustian's report addresses the most pressing challenges to the county.

Rusty Morgan of Rippon, W.Va., said he didn't hold a lot of hope when the planning commission decided to hire someone from outside to decide how the county would grow.

Morgan said he figured whoever did the report would suggest that everything be developed.

"I think we all got a good surprise," Morgan said.

Crafting a new comprehensive plan for the county includes "probably some of the most important decisions this county has ever made," said Morgan.

Ann Trumble of Shenandoah Junction, W.Va., said she has been disappointed in how the county has dealt with county growth issues and the "string of lawsuits" that have been filed in an attempt to grapple with them.

"It's a sad state of affairs," Trumble said.

The comprehensive plan generally describes how the county should grow. The plan is put into effect through specific zoning laws.

Tustian, who attended the meeting and jotted down notes throughout, has declined to talk about his report, saying he was instructed by the county planning commission not to make comments on it.

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