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Developers complain over LESA change in Jefferson

August 16, 2002|by DAVE McMILLION

charlestown@herald-mail.com

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - Referring to the decision as "sneaky politics" and an "ambush," two people who have been associated with housing development in Jefferson County complained Thursday about the Jefferson County Commission's recent decision to change a land scoring process to limit residential growth.

Before the commissioners changed the process last Thursday, developers wanting to build in the county's rural zone had to score less than 60 on the Land Evaluation Site Assessment test to be able to build.

The commissioners are now requiring that developers score less than 55 to build.

A list of variables are used to score developments under LESA, including soil types on the land, distance to growth corridors, comprehensive plan compatibility, proximity to schools, public water availability and other factors.

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A numerical score is given in each area.

If a development is assessed a score of 55 or higher, the development cannot be brought before the Jefferson County Planning Commission for consideration.

The commissioners decided to change the LESA score after accepting three annexation requests that allowed the town of Ranson to more than triple in size.

The annexed area would allow for more dense development than when it was part of the county, officials said.

Local developer Paul Ashbaugh criticized the commissioners Thursday, saying the actions were prompted by people living in areas like Shepherdstown and Bakerton who are against growth.

"It's okay for them to move here, but no one else," said Ashbaugh, referring to the LESA changes as "sneaky politics."

Ashbaugh said he decided to go into the home building business 17 years ago in the county. He has since acquired 250 acres in the rural zone that was rated as allowable for development under the old LESA scoring system.

Ashbaugh said the land on the Blue Ridge Mountain now scores above the 55 point LESA score.

Ashbaugh said he was planning to develop the land, keep 25 acres for a new home for himself and divide off other sections for family members.

"I think the majority of the people have got the shaft out of this," said Ashbaugh.

John Kusner, who used to do surveying work in the county, questioned whether the commissioners were being loyal to county residents or a selective group.

While the commissioners said zoning has drawbacks, the system in place seeks to concentrate development around existing towns, which is what they desired.

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