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New commissioners active at first meeting

Growth proposals spark debate at initial Jefferson County Commission meeting for Greg Corliss and Rusty Morgan.

Growth proposals spark debate at initial Jefferson County Commission meeting for Greg Corliss and Rusty Morgan.

January 03, 2003|by DAVE McMILLION

charlestown@herald-mail.com

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - New Jefferson County Commission members Greg Corliss and Rusty Morgan brought several growth control proposals to the table during their first meeting Thursday night and the going was rough for much of the discussions.

Commission members Jane Tabb, Al Hooper and James G. Knode voted against two of the proposals and raised many questions through the debates.

Corliss and Morgan, who stood for many of the same growth control issues in their candidacy for the commission last fall, first suggested Thursday night that the Jefferson County Planning Commission consider a proposal to eliminate the Land Evaluation Site Assessment (LESA) test, a process used to score proposed developments to determine if they should be allowed in the county's rural zone.

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Some people have complained that the scoring process is too subjective and that LESA has caused a "hopscotch" pattern of development in the rural area.

Corliss and Morgan's proposal to eliminate LESA caused concern among the other commission members. Elimination of LESA is already being suggested in a new comprehensive plan for the county, and Hooper asked Corliss and Morgan why the idea should not be debated as part of the new comprehensive plan that is being presented to the public.

Corliss and Morgan said they believed the possible elimination of LESA should be dealt with now so more time could be devoted to other important issues in the comprehensive plan.

Knode expressed concern that the county would have no zoning if LESA was eliminated, and Tabb said she thought Corliss and Morgan's idea was a "piecemeal" approach to land use planning.

Tabb, Hooper and Knode defeated the proposal to have LESA eliminated then defeated a proposal to have the planning commission study LESA.

A second proposal pushed by Corliss called for allowing housing developments to be built only if there is planning for proper services to support them, such as adequate schools or sewage systems.

Tabb said she believed the planning commission should deal with that issue "instead of us sticking our foot in the process."

Knode said such a proposal would mean that population growth could stop in the county if a certain service was not being provided.

"I happen to believe (that's) morally and legally wrong," Knode said.

The commission agreed to have the planning commission and the Jefferson County Prosecuting Attorney's office study the matter.

Corliss suggested several other proposals, including reducing the size of the planning commission from 11 voting members to five, which failed. Corliss and Morgan felt the planning commission membership was too big and "unwieldy."

The tensions at times between Corliss and Morgan and the other commissioners was reminiscent of the tensions between members of the Jefferson County Board of Education when new members of that board took office last summer, one citizen said at Thursday's meeting.

Corliss said after the meeting he was not disappointed by the meeting. He said at least the issues people have been concerned about were debated.

"I don't think we've had that in the last year and a half," Corliss said.

Earlier in the meeting, Tabb was elected president of the commission for 2003.

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