Subdivision regulations to be updated in Berkeley County

October 01, 2003|by CANDICE BOSELY

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Somewhere in the middle is where Berkeley County's subdivision regulations fall.

Anti-growth advocates believe developers would build houses on top of other houses if it would fatten wallets. Developers believe the anti-growth contingent would be happy if a fence was built around the county and no new people were allowed in and no new houses were built.

Exaggerations? Maybe a bit. One certainty, though, is that growth shows no signs of stopping in the county.

The subdivision regulations have not been thoroughly revised since their inception in 1975. Planning Director Sue Ann Morgan said they will help regulate development by establishing specific guidelines developers must follow.

Outside of Martinsburg's city limits, Berkeley County has no zoning.

The regulations establish minimum and maximum densities for housing developments and spell out what developers need to do to create a subdivision, among other guidelines.


Controlling growth is important, Morgan said, especially since the area is becoming "a bedroom community."

Thanks to better rail and road access, "our community has become more and more attractive to those who work in the Washington, D.C., area," Morgan said. "We've been growing at a pretty significant rate over the last few years."

Morgan estimated there are several hundred housing developments, ranging in size, in the county.

This Thursday the regulations will be discussed at the Berkeley County Commission's evening meeting, which begins at 7:05 p.m.

Public comments made recently will be discussed, including suggestions regarding one of Morgan's ideas that was later taken out of the regulations.

Morgan had proposed that developers compile informational requirements by:

  • Determining what the subdivision's impact would be on the school system and whether a new school might have to be built because of new children.

  • Doing a traffic study to see if the community would create an acceptable traffic situation.

  • Conducting a land-use history. Much of the county's land was used at one point for orchards, meaning arsenic could be present in the soil, she said.

Because homebuilders and developers were not too keen on the idea, Planning Commission members took Morgan's suggestion out of the regulations, she said.

Elsewhere in the regulations, which total 127 two-sided pages, recent weather conditions were taken into account.

During a drought two summers ago, several people's wells went dry, possibly because of too many wells being too close together. The regulations would require lots that have a well be at least 1.5 acres, to prevent wells from going dry.

A water feast followed the famine, with flooding being the most recent problem. Under the proposed regulations, developers would have to determine and make known which areas could flood.

Several people told Morgan that they had no idea flooding was possible near their homes or in their basements.

"We want to make sure homeowners know what they're getting into," Morgan said.

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