Charles Town and Ranson meet over growth

September 24, 2002|by DAVE McMILLION

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - Concerned that uncontrolled development can strip the area of its identity and lead to higher costs of living for residents, representatives from Charles Town and Ranson sat down Monday night to start a dialogue about how to develop a growth pattern for the area.

Planning commission members from the two municipalities considered entering into an agreement that would set up specific areas for residential and commercial growth.

Under the agreement, the two towns would also consider implementing consistent impact fees, joining together on urban revitalization projects and studying implementation of a joint water and sewer authority to insure adequate delivery of the utilities to local residents at an affordable cost.


The dialogue follows considerable growth in the cities in recent months.

Ranson has annexed about 2,400 acres and Charles Town has annexed 1,450 acres, which takes in the proposed 3,300-home Huntfield development and the 800-home Norborne Glebe development.

Becoming part of a city can be attractive to housing developers because of the city services that will be extended to the new developments. The growth can also be attractive to cities because the growth can mean more revenue, officials from the cities have said.

But unrestrained growth can result in urban sprawl that can change the character of the two towns and cut into the county's agricultural land, Charles Town Planning Commission member Matt Ward said.

So far, Ranson has set up a growth area that encompasses about 3,000 acres and Charles Town is considering setting up a growth boundary around the city that would extend east to Country Club Road, south to Cattail Road and around Huntfield and Norborne Glebe.

Under the proposed agreement, Charles Town and Ranson would agree not to annex outside the growth areas or in each other's growth areas.

Each city would establish a "greenbelt of protected land" around the growth boundaries to keep the distinction between "town and country," the agreement said. The cities also would seek support from Jefferson County government to restrict urban development outside the boundaries, the proposed agreement states.

"This meeting is long overdue," said Ward, who has long been concerned about the rapid pace of development in the county. "We're two cities, but one urban area."

Ranson City Manager David Mills, who accompanied the Ranson Planning Commission to the meeting, said he was encouraged by the intent of the meeting.

"What one community does affects the other," said Mills.

Joe Coakley, president of the Tuscawilla Hills Citizens Association, said he was concerned about large developments like Norborne Glebe and Huntfield getting more representation in city government.

"There's no way around this. I just wonder if your current residents realize this," said Coakley.

Charles Town Planning Commission member Scott Coyle expressed concern about additional staff Charles Town would have to hire to offset the big developments and added services, like street lights, the city would have to extend to those areas.

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