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Some say zoning ratings system out of date

February 24, 2005|by DAVE McMILLION

charlestown@herald-mail.com

CHARLES TOWN, W.VA. - Jefferson County's system of protecting agricultural zones from development has become "mired in appeals and lawsuits" while growth-related problems like traffic congestion and increased car accidents are on the rise, speakers said during a Wednesday night public hearing on new proposed land-use regulations.

The Jefferson County Commission is proposing new land-use or zoning laws following concerns about the rate of development in the county, large annexations of land by cities and other issues.

To help control growth in the county's agricultural zone, the commissioners are considering altering a test developers must pass to build in the rural areas.

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Under the Land Evaluation Site Assessment (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.

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

But speakers during the public hearing at the Charles Town Library said LESA has outlived its usefulness.

Edward Dunleavy of Shepherdstown, W.Va., criticized LESA for allowing "purely subjective opinions to ultimately void all of the clearly defined definitions of a rural zone."

Mike Shepp, who has more than 30 years in surveying and project management experience relating to home construction, said LESA has led to a lack of predictability for the public, landowners and developers.

"The process itself is mired in appeals and lawsuits," Shepp told the commissioners and Jefferson County Planning Commission members during the hearing.

Shepp encouraged the commissioners to adopt a more conventional type of zoning which would direct the most dense development around municipalities.

Dave Harty said it is time for the county to "return to common sense."

Harty said rural zones were set up, but residential development has popped up in them. Traffic congestion is getting worse and Harty said some roads are nothing more than "paved cow paths."

Joe Coakley said he likes the proposal from the commissioners because it will control growth now. The commissioners could pass the proposal and consider other types of zoning in the future, said Coakley.

More than 50 people attended the hearing.

A second hearing will be tonight at 7 p.m. in the bottom level of the library at 200 E. Washington St.

After receiving public comment, the commissioners will study them and decide how they want to proceed, Commissioner Greg Corliss said.

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