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Developer reintroduces townhouse project in Shepherdstown

September 29, 2004|by DAVE McMILLION

charlestown@herald-mail.com

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - A proposed townhouse project near Morgan's Grove Park which drew controversy years ago is being pursued again by the developer.

When Gene Henry proposed the townhouse project in 1995, opponents complained that the development was not compatible with the area and posed a threat to Town Run, a nearby stream that flows through Shepherdstown, W.Va.

Most recently, Henry proposed to sell the land where the townhouses would be built to the county to allow for an expansion of Morgan's Grove Park.

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The proposal to sell the land to the county was tied to another proposal to transfer ownership of the park from the Shepherdstown Men's Club to the county.

One of the provisions of the proposed park ownership transfer is that if it were approved, the county would purchase Henry's 11 acres from him for $1 million.

The Men's Club recently voted against transferring ownership of the park to the county.

Because the park transfer proposal was voted down, Henry decided to pursue his proposed Town Run Commons townhouse project again, said John Yoder, an attorney who has represented Henry on the issue.

Two years ago, the Jefferson County Planning Commission approved the project, Yoder said. The Shepherdstown Men's Club and other people appealed the decision to the Jefferson County Zoning Board of Appeals, which approved the project on a 2-1 vote, Yoder said.

Because state law requires that an affirmative vote consists of at least three votes, the case was moved to Jefferson County Circuit Court, Yoder said.

Circuit Judge Gray Silver III sent the case back to the planning commission, directing it to make findings of fact supporting their decision and reach conclusions of law that applies to those facts, Yoder said.

On Tuesday night, planning commission members heard a request from another attorney representing Henry to move forward on the matter.

Paul Raco, head of the Jefferson County Department of Planning, Zoning and Engineering, recommended that planning commission members not discuss the project because there is federal litigation involving the case.

Henry's attorney, Linda Gutsell, argued that the federal case has no connection to the issue before the planning commission.

The planning commission decided to postpone any action on the project until it can consult with lawyers.

The townhouse project originally was designed to have 76 units, but Henry reduced it to 50.

Morgan's Grove Park is a popular 21-acre facility southwest of Shepherdstown at the intersection of W.Va. 480 and Morgan Grove Road. The park has soccer fields, a kitchen facility, a baseball backstop and other features.

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