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School board wants in on the planning process

May 14, 2003|by DAVE McMILLION

charlestown@herald-mail.com

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - Jefferson County Schools officials say they want developers to be required to have meetings with them to negotiate on possible facilities that builders could provide for schools.

The state School Building Authority provides money to build schools, but the state agency does not provide funding for other facilities needed at schools, such as tennis courts, athletic tracks or press boxes, Jefferson County Board of Education President Lori Stilley told the Jefferson County Planning Commission Tuesday night.

Stilley said she wants the planning commission to require developers to meet with school officials to explore ways developers can help the school system get the facilities it needs.

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Any type of contribution a developer makes to the school system could be credited against impact fees developers would be required to pay if such fees are passed in the county, Stilley said.

The discussion was the latest related to preparing the school system for future growth. Rapid population growth in counties to the east of Jefferson County has led school officials to believe that growth eventually will spread to Jefferson County.

School officials say they already are feeling the pinch.

"Every one of our schools, except two, are overcrowded," Stilley told the planning commission. "We need your help."

Stilley said she had a meeting with developers Tuesday morning and said there was support for her idea. Some builders said they probably could buy portable classrooms for the school system at lower prices than what the school system is paying, Stilley said.

"We all recognize it's time for all of us to come together," said attorney David Camilletti, who represents the school board. "We've changed a lot and we've changed in the years I've been here. The greater progress will be working together."

Stilley explained how the county's land-use laws allow for such a proposal.

In one section of the county's subdivision ordinance, it says the land-use laws are designed to "guide public policy and action in order to provide adequate and efficient transportation, water, sewer, schools, parks and other public requirements and facilities."

Paul Raco, director of the Jefferson County Planning, Zoning and Engineering Department, said there already is an opportunity for developers and school officials to meet on such issues.

In the early stages of a development, builders and representatives from 23 agencies in the county can sit down at a pre-planning meeting and discuss community needs, Raco said.

There was criticism of that process.

Planning Commission member Renny Smith said those meetings "obviously go in the black hole somewhere" because no one goes to them.

Others said there often is short notice of the pre-planning meetings, giving school officials little time to prepare for them, and that school officials probably need to spend more time with developers rather than going to a meeting with 22 other agencies.

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