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Residents, officials upset over boundary plan in Charles Town

April 25, 2006|by DAVE McMILLION

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - A plan to nearly double Charles Town's growth boundary continued to generate controversy during an emotionally charged Charles Town Planning Commission meeting Monday night where speakers called the plan "suspicious" and "unconscionable."

People living outside the city objected to being annexed into Charles Town under the plan and Jefferson County Commission member Jim Surkamp yelled at planning commission members as he told them that hearings would have to be held on such a proposal.

"These are the county people, not your people," Surkamp said. "You don't have a leg to stand on."

During a public input session earlier in the day, Charles Town City Council member and city planning commission member Donald Clendening sought to temper the outcry over the plan by saying the city would not be able to take property within the boundary. Landowners would have to ask to be annexed into the city, Clendening said.

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The city's growth boundary is an area designated around the city which city council members use to consider possible annexations.

The city's growth boundary currently takes in 7,700 acres, but under the Charles Town Planning Commission proposal, the boundary would be expanded by another 7,200 acres.

Mayor Peggy Smith has said city officials are considering expanding the growth boundary so the city can get more commercial growth.

The new growth boundary is being considered as part of a new comprehensive plan for the city.

The plan began generating controversy last week during a Charles Town City Council meeting when council member Matt Ward expressed concerns about the plan.

Ward raised concerns about the size of the growth boundary expansion and said the city already has places along the Charles Town Bypass where it can attract commercial business.

The city set up a public input session Monday at City Hall from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. to gather public input about the plan. A public comment period followed at 7 p.m.

Much of the criticism Monday centered on the plan's proposal to extend the growth boundary into a historic farming area west of the city in the Earle Road area. The plan would take in a large swath of residential land leading over to the Earle Road area and would take in Tuscawilla Hills and Locust Hill.

Criticism also rose over the plan's proposal for a western bypass around Charles Town that could parallel Earle Road or use parts of it for the new highway.

Earle Road area residents said the plan does not make sense because it affects one of the most historic parts of the county, the site of several Washington family homes.

Randy Funkhouser, one of many people who went to City Hall for the afternoon session, said people in the Earle Road area are unsure of the plan and are not pleased about what they're hearing.

"People look at this as a really clandestine effort. None of these people are happy with this situation," said Funkhouser, who raises thoroughbred horses and cattle at his 200-acre O'Sullivan Farms property along Earle Road.

"What a shock. Just outrageous. It's got everyone upset," County Commission member Rusty Morgan said during the Monday night meeting.

City officials said Monday they will probably re-examine parts of the plan based on the opposition. Clendening acknowledged that the city was getting "butchered" by residents over the plan.

The planning commission will have a work session at 3 p.m. Thursday in city hall to consider public comments and possibly make changes to the plan, Camp said.

The commission will hold a public hearing on the plan May 9 at 7 p.m. at City Hall, Camp said.

If the planning commission recommends the plan to city council, council members plan to have a public hearing on the plan May 15, city officials said.

The western bypass was proposed because of the large amount of truck traffic that passes through downtown Charles Town, said Larry Johnson of View Engineering, which crafted the plan.

As of Monday, the proposed route for the western bypass would turn off W.Va. 51 west of town and follow Earle Road or use parts of Earle Road, Johnson said.

The bypass would continue south on Earle Road then parallel Wheatland Road before connecting with the Charles Town Bypass, according to the plan.

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