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New land-use laws get public, official scrutiny

September 20, 2006|by DAVE McMILLION

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - New land-use regulations being considered for Jefferson County emphasize "clustering" homes to save open space in the county, a spokesman for a firm working on the regulations said Tuesday night.

Jefferson County has large tracts of agricultural areas and some people support maintaining the rural nature of the county, thinking it can lead to benefits like increased tourism.

Lane Kendig of Kendig Keast Collaborative said the proposed land-use regulations his firm have developed for the county are based on the "community character" of the area.

Jefferson County Commission members periodically review the county's land-use regulations and have picked the Kendig Keast Collaborative firm to help them with a current review of the laws.

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Kendig Keast officials say the county's current land-use laws have not been effective in managing urban and suburban growth or protecting agricultural areas and they have written about three chapters of new proposed regulations.

On Tuesday, Kendig Keast officials held the first of two public hearings and workshop sessions to present what they have developed.

Tuesday's night's session, which attracted about 15 people, was held in the lower level of the Charles Town Library and the second session will be held there today at 7 p.m.

Although there is emphasis on how open space will be created in the county, some are concerned about how housing will be offered, especially affordable housing.

There has been concern that affordable housing is becoming more scarce as home prices rise.

Commission member Dale Manuel said he wants to make sure there are provisions in the new land-use laws that give people like young school teachers earning $30,000 a year a place to live.

Kendig said the proposed new regulations allow affordable housing like apartments in all residential areas and special exceptions do not have to be made to build them.

Some have criticized the Kendig Keast proposals, including that they will drive up the cost of school construction because schools will not be allowed to be built in rural areas.

Some believe that the restriction means schools will have to compete with others for available building land in the county, which will drive up school construction costs.

Manuel said he thinks parts of the Kendig Keast proposals will be tweaked as the county goes through the review process.

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