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Policy change peeves Ward

October 05, 2005|by DAVE McMILLION

CHARLES TOWN, W.VA.

charlestown@herald-mail.com

Tensions are mounting again between Charles Town City Council member Matt Ward and others on the council, this time over an annexation policy that was passed by the council Monday night.

Ward said Tuesday that council members passed an annexation policy which will water down a previous policy on annexations and "open the floodgates" to development.

"Citizens ought to know what's going on. I plan to get the word out," Ward said.

Mayor Peggy Smith and city resident Al Hooper, who worked on the new annexation policy, downplayed Ward's concerns, saying the new policy simply streamlines the city's policy on annexations and makes it easier to bring projects into the city that are needed.

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"Matt Ward is going to say what he wants to say," said Hooper, a former Jefferson County Commission member.

Ward said after the proposed 3,200-home Huntfield development south of town was annexed into the city, he argued that the city needed to formulate a policy on how annexations would be considered.

An annexation policy later was adopted by the council, which said the city would respect the county's zoning ordinance and disfavor attempts to increase housing densities in the county's agricultural zone, Ward said.

The policy also said that annexations should be disfavored if adequate services are not in place or if annexations would results in tax increases, Ward said.

Ward claims those three provisions were thrown out in the policy adopted Monday night.

"We should not take this lightly," Ward said.

Smith said the city has a master plan for growth and there is no intention of going beyond that growth area.

The new annexation policy was adopted to make it easier for facilities like the ones being proposed by the Oakland United Methodist Church to be brought into the city, Smith said.

Officials with the church along W.Va. 9 east of town said they are considering building several facilities next to their property, including an assisted living center for the elderly.

The church wants to annex the land into the city because it will be easier to develop the facilities under the city's land-use regulations rather than the county's laws, said Pastor JoAnne Alexander.

City Planner Jeremy Camp, who was a member of a committee to review a new annexation policy, said the new policy clears up contradictions in the previous policy.

The city has an urban development area around it which lies in the county's agricultural zone, Camp said. If the city continues to have an annexation policy that disfavors changing land uses in the county's agricultural zone, it contradicts any growth that might be considered in the urban development area, Camp said.

Regarding the old policy's recommendation that annexations should be disfavored if adequate services are not in place, Camp said those provisions are still in the new policy.

Camp said an important point to consider is that the new annexation policy is not a law and that whether to annex a property is a decision that rests with council members.

Ward was critical of the fact that there was no public input on the new policy, but Don Clendening said no public input was needed because "nothing is cut in stone."

Council members Matt Ward, John Ward, Amy Schmitt and Bill Jordan voted against the annexation policy. Sandy Slusher McDonald, Randy Breeden, Clendening and Geraldine Willingham voted for it. Because it was a tie vote, Smith cast the tie-breaking vote in favor of the policy.

Matt Ward is an outspoken council member who has cautioned against allowing developers to change the town's landscape rapidly.

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