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New zoning concept for jefferson considered

April 26, 2002|BY DAVE McMILLION

charlestown@herald-mail.com

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - Jefferson County land planners are considering adopting a different zoning system as part of a new comprehensive plan for the county, officials said Thursday.

Members of the Jefferson County Planning Commission are trying to decide if they should replace a current zoning tool known as LESA with another method of zoning, said Scott Coyle, president of the planning commission.

"There's about a third who are interested, a third who are not interested and about a third sitting on the fence," Chief Planner Stephen R. Bockmiller said.

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LESA, which stands for Land Evaluation Site Assessment, is a scoring test used to determine whether a housing subdivision can be built in the county's agricultural zone.

A list of variables are 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 farther 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 brought before the Jefferson County Planning Commission for consideration.

But some county residents have complained the scoring system is subjective.

A group of people who filed an appeal over the LESA score given to the controversial Harvest Hills subdivision on Flowing Springs Road gave the subdivision a score of 89.47.

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 one person who helped file the appeal said she came up with a higher score of 12 when other schools like elementary schools are considered.

Richard Tustian, a planning expert who has been hired to help the county draft a new comprehensive plan, has suggested the LESA system be discontinued.

Because land use is such a heated issue in the county, Coyle and Bockmiller asked the commissioners if they would like to express their views on the subject before the planning commission goes any further on the issue.

Coyle said the issue is "one of the flags that's really waving at us."

There was some general discussion but the commissioners did not take any action.

Commissioner Jane Tabb said she does not believe she has as much expertise on the issue as planning commission members. Tabb said she plans to attend a May 7 meeting of the commission where the issue is expected to be discussed.

Bockmiller said the county could keep the LESA system or adopt a more conventional zoning system.

One such system would set up zones that allow for different types of growth, Brockmiller said. Under the plan, developers would not be able to build anything in those zones if they were not permitted uses or on a "conditional" use list.

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