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W.Va. planners reject subdivision near historical area

June 29, 2005|by DAVE McMILLION

charlestown@herald-mail.com

CHARLES TOWN, W.VA. - Citing concerns about how the project could affect nearby historical areas and a federal firearms training facility, the Jefferson County Planning Commission on Tuesday night rejected plans for a 42-lot subdivision near Harpers Ferry, W.Va.

Planning commission members rejected final plat approval for the Benview subdivision by a 5-4 vote after a lengthy public hearing in which speaker after speaker spoke against the subdivision, which developers want to build near the intersection of Bloomery Road and U.S. 340.

An attorney representing the developer said after the meeting he will pursue approval for the Benview subdivision in court.

Attorney Jim Campbell said previously it had been more than 100 days since the developer had submitted some materials for the project.

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Failure to take action on the project within 60 days after such materials are provided shall result in approval from the planning commission, Campbell said in a suit he filed against the planning commission in Jefferson County Circuit Court.

Campbell said he filed the suit in case the planning commission turned down the project, and now he intends to prove in court that the planning commission should be compelled to approve the subdivision.

"We will proceed accordingly," Campbell said.

Planning commission members who voted against final plat approval were worried about nearby historical sites that could be "forever damaged" if the subdivision is approved, traffic that would be added to an already congested area around Bakerton Road and concerns about the subdivision that were raised by U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

The federal agency is building a firearms training facility near the property and a U.S. Customs and Border Protection official had told a county planning official that he was concerned about "potential security issues" that could arise if the subdivision is built.

Speakers at the public hearing said the firearms training facility will have a security level of 5, the highest security level, and they expressed concern about children entering the property.

"People are going to complain about the same things that Summit Point complained about," said Harpers Ferry resident Paul Rosa, referring to anti-terrorist training that is conducted at the Summit Point Raceway.

Planning Commission member Todd Baldau said he could not see approving the subdivision when the federal and state government had urged county officials not to vote for it.

The project is within an area designated as part of a possible boundary increase for Harpers Ferry National Historical Park and Deputy State Historic Preservation Officer Susan Pierce said in a letter to a planning commission official that approval of the subdivision would be "another step toward the possible destruction of this historic landscape."

"This is as black and white as I've seen it," Baldau said.

The site of the subdivision is associated with School House Ridge, the location of a siege conducted by Confederate Gen. Stonewall Jackson's troops in the Civil War, Pierce said.

"I think it would be irresponsible to our heritage if you approve this," said Bob DuBose, a member of the Harpers Ferry Town Council.

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