Letters to the editor for 7/8

July 08, 2002

Swartz right on moratorium

To the editor:

Congratulations to Commissioner Paul Swartz for suggesting a moratorium on new building until the county can get a "handle" on development.

There has been an unprecedented surge in the applications for subdivision this year because of the impending Comprehensive Plan. Areas slated for preservation and conservation have been compromised and it is impossible to reverse a subdivision once it has been built.

Why not give the Comprehensive Plan a chance prior to rushing to approve every zoning and subdivision request imaginable. Some of the commissioners are afraid of addressing the plan at this time because of the upcoming elections. Perhaps their stands would not be popular with the electorate?


This plan, which has taken four years to compile, should be addressed and adopted by the sitting commissioners - now - prior to November. In the meantime a moratorium is called for in order to stop the "run" on our beautiful lands by profit-driven developers who do not care about our wish to maintain our scenic vistas and protect our natural resources, such as water.

Another reason for a moratorium at this time is the water situation. We do not hear much about this but every other jurisdiction in the Potomac Basin is being very cautious. The Maryland Department of Natural Resources reports that our aquifer is about 15 inches below normal.

It will take some time for the aquifer to recharge. In the meantime, how can new wells help the situation? Last week, Bob Arch, our Planning Department head, was asked if he could tell how many residential units have been approved but not built. His reply was that their system wouldn't produce that number. How many subdivisions like St. James (773 units), which was approved about 10 years ago, are on the books?This figure is a vital one to have when approving further development.

At the June 3 meeting of the planning commission, 420 units were approved on 228 acres. With this number of approvals at a single meeting, what will the entire year yield? Let's back Swartz and insist on a moratorium on residential building until the Comprehensive Plan is in place and the drought situation has eased.

Henryetta Livelsberger


Historic laws apply in Jefferson

To the editor:

The Charles Town jail dispute seems to be a never-ending saga. The latest development is the decision by the West Virginia Court of Appeals to delay oral arguments until Oct. 9, 2002.

The oral arguments concern the appeal of Jefferson County Judge Thomas W. Steptoe Jr.'s decision that a bill passed recently in the West Virginia Legislature freed county governments from the requirement to conduct a historical review before demolishing a historic property.

The Charles Town jail is on the National Register of Historic Places, thus making it, according to the plaintiffs, eligible for historic review.

The Jefferson County Commissioners had decided to demolish the jail in December 2000 when they approved a contract to demolish the jail with only a minimum of public input. This without going through the legal requirement of a review prior to making their decision. Indeed, I am of the opinion that a decision either way would have been reached by now if the Commissioners had abided by the legal requirements to make a historical review.

To me, the real issue here is not whether or not the jail should or should not be demolished, rather whether or not the Jefferson County Commissioners are bound by the same laws, rules and regulations as are ordinary citizens of this county.

The commissioners seem to believe or, at least give the impression, that laws as the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966 do not apply to them. Nor do the laws of the State of West Virginia pertaining to historic preservation. It makes me wonder how many other instances of high-handed behavior have taken place in Jefferson County.

Sean Holly

Bolivar, W.Va.

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