Some oppose Jefferson County, W.Va., zoning change

May 10, 2002|BY DAVE McMILLION

Jefferson County planners want to switch to a new zoning system but some Jefferson County Commissioners, who would have to approve the plan, have expressed concerns.

Two weeks ago, Jefferson County Planning Commission President Scott Coyle and Chief Planner Stephen R. Bockmiller told the county commissioners that planning commission members were considering changing the county's zoning system.

Planning Commission members said they wanted to replace a current zoning tool known as the Land Evaluation Site Assessment test with a more conventional zoning system.


LESA is a scoring test used to determine whether residential development can be allowed in a rural zone, which accounts for about 80 percent of the county's land.

There have been complaints that the LESA scoring system is too subjective, and a professional land planner hired by the county has suggested that LESA be eliminated.

County Commissioner Dean Hockensmith, who is a member of the planning commission, told the other commissioners Thursday that the planning commission has decided to replace the LESA test.

During a meeting Tuesday, the planning commission voted 6-4 to have Bockmiller write a new comprehensive plan that reflects their wishes.

Bockmiller said there has not been much discussion on whether to make changes to the rural zone.

In addition to the rural zone, other zones in the county include the residential growth district and the residential, light industrial/commercial zone.

The residential growth district is flexible in that single-family homes, townhouses and apartment buildings can be built in the zone, Bockmiller said.

Under a more conventional zoning system, single-family homes, townhouses and apartment buildings could be split up into different zones, Bockmiller said.

County Commissioner James G. Knode said he was worried about the direction the planning commission is heading, saying he has heard about the "horrors" associated with conventional zoning.

When growth is tightly restricted by zones, county commissions in other jurisdictions tend to get more requests for variances to allow different types of growth in those areas, Knode said.

Knode said he is concerned a conventional zoning plan will "clog up" the system.

"That to me didn't seem to be the right decision. I've got a lot of concerns about conventional zoning," Knode said.

County Commissioner Jane Tabb said she also is concerned about making the change.

Bockmiller said he has just started to work on the comprehensive plan, and it was too early to tell what kind of land patterns might be set up.

Bockmiller said he hopes to have the plan completed by mid-July.

Concerns over how the county will develop have been a growing issue, and many of the nine candidates running for the County Commission in Tuesday's primary election have called for land-use changes in the county.

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