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Proposed zoning changes are focus of Jefferson Co. hearings

February 22, 2005|by DAVE McMILLION

charlestown@herald-mail.com

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - Jefferson County residents will get a chance this week to comment on proposed new land use regulations, which will restrict new development from "leap frogging" into untouched rural zones, a Jefferson County Commissioner said.

Local residents can comment on the proposed regulations during a pair of public hearings to be held Wednesday night and Thursday night in the county meeting room at the Charles Town Library.

The meeting room is in the bottom level of the library. Both hearings begin at 7 p.m.

If approved, the proposed regulations would become amendments to Jefferson County's zoning ordinance.

Zoning controls how housing and commercial development is allowed in the county.

The consideration of new zoning for the county follows concerns about the rate of development in the county, large annexations of land by the town of Ranson, W.Va., and other issues.

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The hearings are designed to accept public comment on the county's proposal, but comments on any other zoning proposals that individuals may support are welcome, said Jefferson County Commissioner Greg Corliss.

Corliss said officials and some residents have had "major heartburn" over the inability of the county's land use regulations to control growth in the county's rural, or agricultural zone. As a result, it makes it tougher to plan for growth, such as finding the best place for public schools, Corliss said.

To build in the rural zone, developers must pass a test known as the Land Evaluation Site Assessment, or LESA.

Under LESA, developers are given points for requirements they meet regarding soil types, distance to growth corridors, proximity to schools and public water and sewer availability.

A developer starts the scoring process with 100 points and works backward with the points that are awarded to the builder.

The idea for the builder is to have enough points to end up with a score of less than 55.

To make it more difficult to build in the rural area, county officials are proposing that points awarded to developers for water and sewer that is available to them be taken out of the scoring process, Corliss said.

The proposed zoning amendments also would increase the score at which developers would be able to build to anything less than 60, Corliss said.

Corliss declined to comment on the county's proposal.

"I want to hear everybody's thoughts on it," Corliss said.

After receiving public comment, the commissioners will study them and decide how they want to proceed, said Corliss, adding that he hopes the commissioners will act quickly.

"The longer we delay, the worse off we are," said Corliss, who is concerned about how growth will be managed in the county.

County Commissioner Dale Manuel also declined to comment on the county proposal until he hears from the public.

Manuel said he considers the proposals as a way to put a "patch on the ship" until other types of zoning plans can be considered for the county.

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