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Developers debate subdivision changes

May 24, 2002|BY SARAH MULLIN

martinsburg@herald-mail.com

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Area developers and private property owners voiced concerns about the Berkeley County Planning Commission's revisions to the county's subdivision regulations at a public hearing Thursday night.

The subdivision regulations have not been updated since 1975, said Ray Brosius, president of the commission.

Currently, five-acre parcels of land used for agricultural purposes can be transferred by the land owner to an immediate family member. If that member wants to develop that land, he/she is exempt from the subdivision regulations through the family transfer exception.

Also, five acres of land transferred under the conservation transfer can be developed without undergoing the subdivision process.

The revised regulations state that the parcel of land must be 20 acres, and if the land is further subdivided, the developer must undergo the subdivision process with a public hearing that involves additional time and money.

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Developer Ken Lowe of Shepherdstown, W.Va., told the commission that time is "the most crucial element" to a developer.

"If it took more time to develop, we'd consider going somewhere else," he said.

Lowe is the co-owner of Liberty Business Park near Kearneysville, W.Va., which has four of its five businesses developed on less than five acres, the typical size for most businesses, he said.

If the lot size is changed to 20 acres, developers will have to go through the subdivision process, which can take 90 days or more, Lowe said.

Bob Crawford, executive director of the Berkeley County Development Authority, echoed Lowe's sentiments.

"In this day and age, 90 percent of our prospects tell us first off that they are on a very fast-time track. The first question they ask is how quickly can we get approval (from the planning commission). If I have to tell them ... it will take 90 days, it will turn them off," he said.

The idea to change the lot size from five to 20 acres came from the Farmland Protection Board.

It was an "effort to encourage through the use of an exception conservation," said Clint Hogbin, chairman of the Farmland Protection Board.

He said the county will reap the benefits of "lower taxes, more open space, less crowded schools and roads and preservation of a small part of farm culture" if the lot size is changed.

Brosius said the commission will continue to take written comments until May 30, which can be dropped off at the Planning Commission office at 119 W. King St.

At the June 3 meeting, a date will be set for the next workshop, where commission members will discuss the comments received. The workshop will be open to the public, Brosius said.

Once the planning commission finishes the revisions, the subdivision regulations will be sent to the Berkeley County Commission for approval.

The commission is currently accepting applications for a planning director until Aug. 1. Once the director is hired, he/she will be in charge of regularly updating the regulations and creating a comprehensive plan for the county.

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