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Ranson eyeing annexation requests

May 29, 2002|by DAVE McMILLION

charlestown@herald-mail.com

RANSON, W.Va. - The city of Ranson is considering at least six requests from different property owners to annex their property into the city, proposals that together could more than double the size of the municipality if approved, city officials said.

The properties that are expected to be considered for annexation cover thousands of acres and stretch over roughly a three-mile area, city officials said.

The process started when city officials began looking at where much of the growth would occur in the county, said Ranson City Manager David Mills.

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They came up with an area that stretches about one mile east of Ranson, one mile west of the city limits and about a mile north up W.Va. 9 toward the Bardane area, said Mills. City officials initially believed they might be interested in expanding as far as Bardane, although that appears less likely now, said Mayor David Hamill.

Hamill declined to name the owners of the properties who have completed petitions to be considered for annexation. Many of the landowners are either thinking about developing the land themselves or selling it to people who would develop it, Mills said.

Hamill said he believes property owners are interested in becoming part of the town because they understand that the city's laws are clearly defined and they "know what to expect" when they become residents of Ranson. Sometimes it can be difficult to develop commercial and residential projects in the county because of protections for rural areas, said Mills.

Much of the area is already zoned for commercial and residential development by the Jefferson County Planning Commission. If it would be annexed into Ranson, the area would be zoned based on a "Smart Growth pattern," which is already being used in Wisconsin and Maryland, Mills said.

Under that zoning model, streets would be laid out in a "grid" system similar to the way streets now exist in Ranson and Charles Town, W.Va., Mills said.

There would be different neighborhoods, each having community sites for schools or other purposes, open space and a commercial center in addition to residential areas, said Mills. The neighborhoods would also allow for home-based businesses and apartments above those buildings, Mills said.

All the amenities within the neighborhoods would be within walking distance of each other, said Mills, adding it probably will be the first zoning system of its type used in the state.

"It's essentially building new cities," Mills said. "Jefferson County is ripe for growth and development. If we're going to have this residential growth come to the area, we need to provide for it."

The annexations are attractive to the city because it means more revenue can be generated through the town's taxes.

If Ranson does not annex the growth areas, it could find itself having to provide indirect services to those areas but not being able to generate revenue from them, said Mills.

An example of indirect services is a mutual-aid agreement in which the Ranson Police Department provides backup help to police in the county. If Ranson has a lot of residential growth around its perimeter, it could end up responding to a large number of mutual-aid calls without additional revenue needed to pay for them, said Mills.

"The city kind of has to protect its boundaries," said Mills.

Ranson City Council members are expected to begin reviewing the first six annexation requests Thursday at 7 p.m.

Mills said the city has received four or five letters from other property owners saying they intend to petition the city to be annexed into the town.

Mills said he is not sure exactly how much land is involved in all the annexation requests.

Matt Ward, a city council member in neighboring Charles Town, said he supports Ranson's efforts because it shows they are planning for the future "rather than just letting it happen to them."

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