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New mayor has high hopes for Shepherdstown

June 08, 2006|by DAVE McMILLION

SHEPHERDSTOWN, W.Va. - Shepherdstown has a reputation of being a quaint, attractive town, where residents can take a casual stroll into town to listen to some live music, get a bite to eat and enjoy the village's historic surroundings.

But like a lot of surrounding communities, growth pressures are at its gates.

Lance Dom, who was elected as Shepherdstown's new mayor in the town's election Tuesday, was talking Wednesday about town affairs on the front porch of his German Street home when a steady stream of traffic creeped up the main drag.

"Look at the street," said Dom, his voice being drowned out at times by heavy truck traffic on German Street.

Dom said he can remember when he did not have to look up and down German Street before crossing.

Now, the town is getting increasing amounts of traffic from motorists who are coming through town on W.Va. 45 from the Martinsburg, W.Va., area and heading toward Charles Town, W.Va., Dom said. And there's a hefty amount of traffic coming over the James Rumsey Bridge from Maryland and coming through town on its way to Kearneysville, W.Va., Dom said.

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"We just have a lot of people passing through Shepherdstown that don't intend to be in Shepherdstown," Dom said.

A bypass was built recently to siphon some traffic off W.Va. 45 west of town and take it to W.Va. 480, and Dom said serious consideration needs to be given to another road that would allow that traffic to continue south and connect to Flowing Springs Road.

Dom talked about traffic and other issues facing the town following his victory over Jim Auxer in the race for mayor.

Dom collected 165 votes to 107 for Auxer, who once held the post.

Dom will be joined in running town government by incumbent council members Wanda Grantham Smith, Jim Ford and Howard Mills. Current Mayor Peter Wilson, who decided to run for council, and Frank Salzano are the newcomers on the council.

To help Shepherdstown deal with growth pressures, Dom said he is ready to begin examining the issue on a county basis and said he is encouraged by the talk this week of having a joint planning commission between the Jefferson County Commission and Charles Town City Council.

The county commission has expressed concern about a recent proposal by Charles Town government to expand an urban growth boundary into different areas, including the historical Earle Road area, which was later abandoned after intense public outcry.

After Charles Town City Council withdrew its urban growth boundaries, Commission President Greg Corliss proposed Monday night that the commission and Charles Town have a joint planning commission to determine how the county should grow.

Charles Town Mayor Peggy Smith and Charles Town City Council member Randy Breeden suggested that other cities in the county be a part of the planning process.

Dom said he likes such thinking, and believes Shepherdstown should "ride the coattails of the county a little bit" on the idea.

Dom also emphasized the need for Shepherdstown to improve its downtown streetscape, such as addressing deteriorating sidewalks. Shepherdstown is known for downtown activities like a weekly fresh food market on King Street, and Dom said there has been consideration of setting aside small sections of King Street around German Street for foot traffic only.

Dom said he thinks the priority will be the downtown streetscape improvements and he thinks the other work on town issues will "radiate out from there."

Operation of the town's police department has been a point of contention at times over the years. Two lawsuits have been filed recently over the actions of one officer.

Dom said he thinks the current mayor and council have performed a good job of "reconstituting the department" and Dom said part of his job will be "staying on top of that."

Dom said the town has changed its policy to allow the town to hire more seasoned police officers who are "a little calmer."

When asked if he anticipates any changes at the Shepherdstown Police Department, Dom said, "It's fluid over there always, but it's pretty good right now."

Dom, 56, of 203 W. German St., said annexation of commercial areas can generate more revenue for towns, but it needs to be performed with great care.

Dom's business, Evergreen Homes, specializes in custom home construction. Dom and his wife, Sue, also operate Shaharazade's restaurant and tea room in town.

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