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Many felt the impact of 2003

January 02, 2004|by Bill Kohler

2003 was a year of impact.

Impact fees.

A bypass that would have a big impact on the landscape of Washington Township was brought up and abandoned.

One of the biggest court cases in the area centered on a man convicted of shooting a West Virginia state trooper.

Those were three of the biggest ongoing stories on The Morning Herald's Tri-State pages in 2003, a year that saw some seeds planted for change, a lot of status quo and plenty of stories that will leave a big impact on residents of the five non-Maryland counties we cover at The Herald-Mail.

Take a look back:

Impact fees: The Jefferson County Commission in late November approved an impact-fee system that will generate more than $7,000 for every new home built in the county. The money is earmarked for helping the county school system build schools to relieve overcrowding.

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Tri-State reporters Dave McMillion and Candice Bosely wrote roughly 35 stories about Jefferson County's efforts to pass the plan. The issue was such a touchy subject that it's still not officially settled. A developer is circulating a petition to have the commission's vote nullified and to put the issue up to a vote by county residents.

The story - granted it's not the most scintillating - has all the classic elements. There's need (schools), money (the fees), children (taking classes in a high school that is 400 students overloaded), developers and elected county and school officials all involved in an issue in one of the fastest growing counties in West Virginia.

The issue went a step further last week when the Charles Town (W.Va.) City Council announced its plan to implement an impact-fee system.

Stay tuned.

Munday: West Virginia State Trooper Robert J. Elswick was shot in the head in October 2002 and nearly died from his injuries. He is recovering at his Martinsburg, W.Va., home and hopes to return to work someday.

David Eugene Munday was convicted of multiple charges in the shooting and will stand trial later this month on the state's three-strikes law.

The convictions in the Elswick shooting were important - to Elswick, obviously, and to other law enforcement officers who may rest a little easier knowing you can't get away with shooting a cop.

Bypass/Wal-Mart: No retail store has more impact on a community than a Wal-Mart SuperCenter.

Waynesboro, Pa., long struggling to find its retail niche after the exodus of the outlets from the Walnut Street barn and stores from the downtown, is facing the prospect of getting a Wal-Mart in Rouzerville, a few miles east of the borough in Washington Township.

The long saga of Wal-Mart and the bypass began when the township announced a plan in early spring to build a bypass around Waynesboro that would relieve traffic on Pa. 16/Main Street and create areas of growth on both sides of it. After a public outcry against it, the bypass idea was shelved by Township Supervisors.

Wal-Mart emerged on the scene in the think of a major rezoning request in the township. Developers seeing dollar signs and opportunity have offered to build a portion of the bypass to get to the Wal-Mart retail area (the plan for which was approved by the township in December after much hand-wringing) and the proposed developments.

Whatever happens in Washington Township will have a major impact on the community for decades. On the one hand, the developments will add students to schools, crimes to be patrolled by township police and a possible strain on public services.

On the other hand, it could add business opportunities and a shopping destination that Waynesboro has lacked for years.

Sure things: The year was dotted with tragedy and taxes in the Tri-State area.

On the tax front, many area municipalities and school districts, especially in Franklin County, raised their taxes to keep up with the rising costs of health-care insurance for employees and a cut in fundings from the state.

In fact, all three of my main taxing bodies hit me with property tax hikes - Franklin County, the Borough of Waynesboro and the Waynesboro School District.

2003 was a deadly year on area roads. W.Va. 9 in Berkeley and Jefferson counties - as profiled in a Sunday story by Bosely in November - continued to be one of the deadliest stretches of road in the area.

In one seven-day stretch this year, six people died in separate car accidents on Tri-State roads.

The area also said goodbye to several prominent citizens, including Oakley Seibert and Bruce Van Wyk in Martinsburg and J. Thomas Balistrere in Waynesboro.

Franklin County also lost a firefighter when Keith Hess of Shippensburg, Pa., was killed in the line of duty - fighting a fire in Fulton County.

On the bright side: The news wasn't all gloomy. For every tragedy, tax hike, quarry proposal and assault, there was a silver lining.

The economy seems to be improving, many members of the military - including the 167th Airlift Wing and 157th Military Police Co., both based in Martinsburg - got to spend the holidays with their families, property values are going up, the Chambersburg Airport may get to stay an airport, there's new life at the former Doris I. Billow Ice Arena in the form of The Tennis Club and businesses seem to have weathered the tough stretch of the last several years.

Even the Orioles are showing signs of life, signing some big-name free agents.

Now about the Redskins...

Bill Kohler is Tri-State Editor of The Morning Herald. Reach him at 800-626-6397, ext. 2023, or by e-mail at billk@herald-mail.com.

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