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Residents want county to expand Morgan's Grove park

April 02, 2004|by DAVE McMILLION

charlestown@herald-mail.com

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - A group of Shepherdstown, W.Va., residents asked the Jefferson County Commission on Thursday to consider purchasing 11 acres beside Morgan's Grove Park near Shepherdstown to allow the park to expand.

Commissioner Jane Tabb voted against the request, saying the asking price for the land is "absolutely outrageous."

The owner of the land, Gene Henry, is asking $1 million, officials said.

The group that approached the commissioners said it is a good opportunity to expand the 20-acre park, which is seeing increased usage.

Diana Suttenfield, an artist who lives near the park, said it is important to preserve land at the park because of significant historical and environmental areas nearby.

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Historical artifacts dating to 500 B.C. have been found in the area and a number of rare plants grow there, she said.

To dramatize the issue, Suttenfield related to commission members a movie that revolves around what Manhattan would look like in 2022. The movie tells the story of a city overrun with people, and one of the characters in the movie has only seen landscapes made up of buildings, never meadows or fields.

"We're close to that. But we have an opportunity to change that," Suttenfield told the commissioners.

The 11 acres include a house with a pool and a parking lot that belonged to a restaurant Henry used to operate on the property, said Paul Pritchard, another member of the group.

Pritchard said he has known Henry, a local businessman who has been involved in running restaurants and land development, for many years. Pritchard said he asked Henry if he would consider giving him an option to buy the land.

Henry agreed to offer Pritchard the option, which would allow either Pritchard or the County Commissioners to buy the land, Pritchard said.

Pritchard said he has been told some state funds may be available to help purchase the land.

Commissioner Rusty Morgan suggested a community effort to raise money for the land.

"I'm satisfied this is an important acquisition the county needs to take on," Commissioner Greg Corliss said.

Tabb asked Pritchard if the price of the land is negotiable.

Pritchard said he did not know.

Tabb commented twice on the price tag. "I can't believe it," she said.

Commissioners Al Hooper, Morgan and Corliss voted to study the proposal. Tabb voted no.

Commissioner James G. Knode left the meeting room during the discussion. Knode said he left the room because of litigation against the county and individuals over development projects that have been attempted in the area.

Henry, reached after the meeting Thursday, would not say whether he will negotiate on the price. Henry said he has spent a large amount of money on legal fees in suits against the county in an attempt to develop the land and the $1 million will help him recoup those expenses.

Pritchard said it is important to realize the value of the parking lot and the house, which is where Henry and his wife live.

"It's a very substantial house," said Pritchard, adding that it could be used for a senior center or a park office.

Morgan's Grove Park is southwest of Shepherdstown at the intersection of W.Va. 480 and Morgan Grove Road. It consists of a pavilion and is a popular spot for youth soccer and other events.

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