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Huntfield fee decision might come next week

December 16, 2005|by DAVE McMILLION

charlestown@herald-mail.com

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - The Jefferson County Commission could vote as early as next week on whether the developers of the Huntfield community will get a roughly $6 million break on school impact fees.

Huntfield developers have said they do not believe they should have to pay school impact fees for a proposed 821-home senior living community because children will not be allowed to live in the homes.

School impact fees are collected from developers for every house built to help pay for school facilities needed because of population growth.

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School officials have vehemently objected to the fee waiver, and Jefferson County Schools Superintendent R. Steven Nichols and Jefferson County Board of Education President Lori Stilley argued their side in front of the commission again Thursday.

Nichols told the commission that school facilities serve more than students because they are often used by the community for evening activities, adult education and as polling places.

Stilley expressed doubt about the ability to enforce the developments covenant's that would prohibit children from living in Four Seasons at Huntfield.

Commission member Dale Manuel, who said he plans to vote against the fee waiver, said covenants have often been unable to control smaller issues in subdivisions, like sizes of fences.

"Can you imagine going before a judge and asking for a child to be removed from a grandparents home? It's not going to happen," Stilley said.

Despite the concerns, Georgiana Pardo, who is representing Huntfield, emphasized again the development's rule of no children.

"That's guaranteed? No kids?" said Commission member Greg Corliss.

"Yes," said Pardo.

So far, Corliss said he is relying heavily on Jefferson County Prosecuting Attorney Michael D. Thompson's assessment of the situation.

Thompson said previously that if the rules not allowing children in the Four Seasons at Huntfield are plainly set out in the development's covenants, he could see where the development would not have an impact on the school system.

If the commissioners tried to implement the school impact fee on Four Seasons at Huntfield, Thompson predicted they would probably lose if the fees were ever challenged in court.

County Commission member Rusty Morgan said he needed time to study the information presented by Stilley and Nichols Thursday.

The issue is expected to be considered by the commission again next week and a vote could occur then, commission members said.

The Charles Town City Council recently decided to seek a Jefferson County Circuit Court decision on whether the city should issue building permits to housing developers who do not pay impact fees.

Mayor Peggy Smith said the council wants clarity on the issue in case Huntfield developers pressure the city for building permits for Four Seasons at Huntfield while the county is debating the waiver issue.

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