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Petitioners seek subdivision moratorium

July 08, 2006|by TRISH RUDDER

BERKELEY SPRINGS, W.VA.

The leader of a group that is protesting high-density subdivisions coming into Morgan County presented a petition Friday to the Morgan County Commission asking for a moratorium on new subdivisions in the county.

George Farnham, who heads up the Outhouses of Unger group, presented a petition with nearly 1,000 signatures "asking for an immediate moratorium on major subdivisions until the county's comprehensive plan is finalized and rules and regulations are in place to control growth in Morgan County."

More than 100 people attended a Friday's public hearing to voice their concerns regarding the county's subdivision regulations and proposed changes presented by the county planning commission.

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Farnham said many of the speakers at the meeting were opposed to the two-acre minimum for subdivision homes and asked for five or more acres in county areas that are not served by public water and sewer.

Farnham said the group also wants the commission to consider zoning in Morgan County.

"We would like to have Morgan County impose impact fees so that developers pay their fair share," he said in a press release before the public hearing. "Before that can happen, a minimal zoning plan must be adopted. We are calling on the commissioners to adopt either nontraditional zoning or spot zoning so that we may move forward with impact fees."

Farnham said zoning can be accomplished without carving the county into zones or designating different categories of usage. Spot zoning can be used for small sections in the county. Farnham said under West Virginia law, "nontraditional zoning is an ordinance that sets forth development standards with the county with no zoning classifications and no zoning map required."

"I felt the planning commission has done an excellent job with the authority they have, and if people want them to do more, they have to say the dirty word and talk about zoning," Jeannie Mozier, a local businesswoman, said after the hearing.

Morgan County resident John Webster requested the commission add wording to the new subdivision rules that would not allow septic systems in flood plains.

Webster said "new growth creates pressure to develop marginal land located near flood plains. As development increases, drainage basins are 'built out,' and the volume of storm water runoff and the area that it floods will increase. As a result, homes once outside the mapped flood plains face increased risk of flooding."

Approval for wells and septic system placement are under the jurisdiction of the Morgan County Health Department.

No decision was made Friday by the commission.

Commissioner Tommy Swaim said after the meeting that any comments regarding the subdivision regulations can be submitted in writing to the commission by July 14. He said the regulations and proposed changes will be discussed, "and possibly adopted," at the next commission meeting July 21.

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