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Judge rejects request to halt Shepherdstown project

July 26, 2005|by DAVE McMILLION

charlestown@herald-mail.com

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - A judge on Monday rejected a request to halt the proceedings surrounding a controversial plan to build more than 100 houses on 121 acres that some people contend are part of a Civil War battlefield.

Jefferson County Circuit Court Judge Thomas W. Steptoe Jr.'s rejection of the stay means a hearing on the development will go forward this morning before the Jefferson County Zoning Board of Appeals, said attorney Richard Gay, who is representing the developers.

One argument made to Steptoe in support of a stay of the proceedings was that some of the ground has been excavated, Gay said.

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Gay said he believes it was not land excavation that opponents have seen at the property but cultivation of a field by a farmer.

Several residents and preservation groups are fighting Far Away Farm LLC's plan to build the development, saying the site is part of the Battle of Shepherdstown (W.Va.).

The developer contends that the property does not qualify for the National Register of Historic Places.

Developers are allowed to build in the county's rural zone if their projects score 55 or less on the county's Land Evaluation Site Assessment test, which scores projects based on soil types, water, sewer, historic nature and other factors.

Last year, Far Away Farms' project received a score of 46.2 and opponents appealed the score to the Jefferson County Zoning Board of Appeals. The board revised the score to 50.2, still within the allowable range.

During a compatibility assessment meeting, opponents presented 106 issues. The developer agreed to resolve 39 issues, such as providing curbs and sidewalks, but rejected the remaining 67 issues.

One issue that was rejected by the developers was a request to limit the development to 36 acres on the southern end of the property and donate the remaining land to the Civil War Preservation Trust.

During today's hearing, which starts at 9 a.m. in the lower level of the Old Charles Town Library, the zoning board of appeals will determine whether the remaining 67 issues are relevant to the case, Gay said.

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