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Jefferson planners sound off on impact of growth

July 14, 2004|by DAVE McMILLION

charlestown@herald-mail.com

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - It was only a 37-lot subdivision, but it generated a hefty discussion.

Members of the Jefferson County Planning Commission were considering the proposed Springs at Shepherdstown (W.Va.) housing subdivision Tuesday night when the discussion took on a much broader view.

Planning commission member Rusty Morgan said he did not have any concerns about Springs at Shepherdstown, but he does have a problem with how the county is considering new subdivisions in the county.

When county planners hear proposals about new subdivisions, they often get projections on how many school students or how much traffic the developments will generate.

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The problem is, they are just numbers, Morgan said.

Morgan said the planning commission's staff needs to analyze the numbers more to determine how they affect the overall community and how they fit in with other developments that already have been approved.

"What's the point of this if we don't look at it analytically? The community is expecting us to do that," Morgan said.

Morgan, who also is a Jefferson County Commissioner, said he is particularly concerned about how population growth is affecting schools.

Although school impact fees and a bond issue have been passed to help build new school facilities, Morgan said he remains concerned about students being forced to use portable classrooms "until we catch up" with the growth.

Other planning commission members expressed similar concerns.

If no other developments are approved, the county still will have significant growth for the next 10 years based on subdivisions that have already been approved, planning commission member Bill Lewandowski said.

Lewandowski said he has "serious concerns" about availability of public services.

Although planning commission member Rosella Kern sympathized with some of the concerns, she said the planning commission "can't be making up the rules as we sit here."

If the planning commission wants to change the way it reviews projects, it needs to change its land-use laws, Kern said.

Planning commission member Russell Roper said he was worried the commission was trying to take its regulatory process "to another level." Roper said the schools are getting impact fees and other sources of revenue for new facilities.

The planning commission ended up approving the community impact statement for the Springs at Shepherdstown, which would be on 154 acres west of Shepherdstown along W.Va. 45.

The development was one of five up for approval.

Three of the developments, which called for 103 homes on 290 acres, were postponed.

A fourth one, which would consist of four lots on 17 acres, was approved.

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