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Man to continue push for impact fee vote

January 09, 2004|by DAVE McMILLION

charlestown@herald-mail.com

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - While a deadline passed Thursday for petitions to be filed for a referendum on school impact fees, a Jefferson County man vowed to continue his effort to put the issue up for a countywide vote.

Paul Ashbaugh said he will continue to seek signatures from county residents asking for the election, and plans to discuss the issue next week with the Jefferson County Commission.

Ashbaugh has been distributing signature forms at local businesses in an attempt to get enough signatures to put the issue on the ballot.

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To have a referendum on school impact fees, Ashbaugh needs to have signatures from at least 15 percent of the county's registered voters - about 3,667 people. Ashbaugh said Thursday he has collected 1,438 signatures.

On Wednesday, Ashbaugh initially said it appeared he would not get enough signatures to force the election. Then after re-reading the state law that allows impact fees, Ashbaugh said he believed he found language in the law that gave him another 63 days to collect signatures.

Although officials have complained the Local Powers Act is a poorly written document, the commissioners expressed confidence the deadline was Thursday at the close of business.

Ashbaugh said Wednesday he would discuss the issue with the commissioners on Thursday.

Ashbaugh attended Thursday morning's meeting but later left. In a telephone interview later, Ashbaugh said he could not wait for the public comment period of the meeting and had to leave to take care of other business.

Commissioner Greg Corliss said the commission would consider any comments from Ashbaugh if he gets on next week's agenda.

"Anybody can get on the agenda and talk to the commissioners. That's your right," Corliss said.

School impact fees, which the commissioners will begin collecting Jan. 26, are designed to help fund school construction projects demanded by population growth.

Developers will have to pay $7,122 for every new single-family home and mobile home they put up, $5,562 for every townhouse or duplex and $4,040 for every multi-family dwelling.

Ashbaugh said he wants county residents to vote on the fees because he is concerned how the fees will affect people's ability to buy homes.

In other business regarding the fees Thursday:

  • The commissioners heard a proposal that would involve exempting the impact fee for low-income housing. The fee would not be charged if the person living in the home had a certain income, said Commissioner Rusty Morgan. The person would have to pay the fee if the homeowners' income rose to a certain level, Morgan said.

  • The commissioners discussed how school impact fees will be collected inside towns. Officials in the Jefferson County, W.Va., towns of Harpers Ferry, Bolivar and Shepherdstown have said county officials can collect the fees in their towns, Morgan said. Officials in Charles Town and Ranson want to collect the fees themselves and turn the money over to the Jefferson County Schools, Morgan said. Plans on how to collect the money in towns will have to be ironed out soon, Morgan said.

  • The commissioners approved hiring county resident Mark Schiavone as the impact fee coordinator. Schiavone, who will oversee collection of the fees, is a member of the Jefferson County Planning Commission.
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