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Residents sound off on Charles Town boundary plan

May 10, 2006|By DON AINES

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. ? A Charles Town Planning Commission meeting to gather public comment on a proposal to nearly double the urban growth boundary drew about 200 people, with all but one of the more than two dozen people who spoke condemning the plan.

"This is grossly illegal ... and they are invading your property rights," Jefferson County Commissioner Jim Surkamp told the crowd to a round of loud applause from residents living in or near the growth boundary. He said the effort to plan for land uses outside city limits exceeded the jurisdiction of the planning commission.

The turnout for the meeting necessitated moving it from City Hall to the Zion Episcopal Church on East Washington Street.

Consulting engineer Larry Johnson began the meeting with an overview of the plan, which would double the growth boundary to about 14,200 acres, a figure that includes the corporate limits of Charles Town. The proposed land use plans for the 11,921 acres outside the city include 3,676 residential acres, 2,745 acres for low-density housing, 784 commercial acres, 534 acres for office parks, an entertainment district of 1,399 acres and 1,155 acres for industrial use.

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Another 1,628 acres would be set aside for conservation or open space, Johnson said.

"The planning commission, I think, is trying to draft a practical plan ... A plan for future development," City Planner Jeremy Camp said. The second draft, he said, had "significant changes," including removing the northwest area near Earl Road, an addition in the northeast requested by the City Council and recommendations for preserving historic sites and adding more green space.

"I'm bitterly opposed, intractably opposed to the Charles Town comprehensive plan," said Linda Case, who called an industrial area southwest of town a "great purple sore," referring to a color-coded map.

Several people said the plan does not explain all the required road and utility improvements the growth boundary would require or how to pay for them. Others said they moved to Jefferson County to get away from cities, not become part of Charles Town.

"This plan is an annexation plan," said Katherine Funkhouser. If put in place, she said developers would "come and buy up all the land and ask" to be annexed.

"It (growth plan) would help to put roads here. It would help to put fire service here," said Richard Zigler, a farmer and the only person to voice support for the plan.

"I'm a realist," Zigler said after the meeting. He said his land is his investmentand those who would limit its future use by opposing the plan "want to rob me of my retirement portfolio."

Camp said Mayor Peggy Smith will ask the city council to table any action on the plan at its May 15 meeting, prior to the first meeting of a Charles Town Community Advisory Committee meeting the next day.

The planning commission will review the public comments at a May 17 workshop meeting and hold a public hearing on the plan on May 22, Camp said.

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