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Thinking green in Jefferson County

October 11, 2006|by DAVE McMILLION

SHEPHERDSTOWN, W.Va. - Areas of Jefferson County that consist of forest, wetlands and streams, and are favored spots for rare species, are coming into clearer view as officials work on a series of maps that outline the regions.

Officials are identifying the areas using technology like GIS, which is the collection of computer hardware, software and geographic information to analyze geographic features.

County officials say it is important to identify the features in the face of growth in coming years, and Jefferson County Commission member Dale Manuel said Tuesday night that the data can be used in its current work to rewrite the county's land-use regulations.

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.

An update on the effort to identify unique natural areas was given at the Clarion Hotel and Conference Center in Shepherdstown Tuesday night.

Referred to as a Green Infrastructure Assessment, the commission and The Conservation Fund are working together on the project.

Maps of the natural areas were shown to about 30 people and they revealed areas such as large forested areas on the east and west sides of the county.

The maps highlighted core agricultural areas in the center of the county and wetlands on the western edge of Charles Town and near the eastern edge of the county.

Joe Hankins of The Conservation Fund said areas such as green strips can be beneficial because they can act as natural filtering systems to water resources.

If those filtering areas are destroyed, there is technology that can achieve the same effect, but it is done at an expense, Hankins said.

Project officials say the green infrastructure assessment will allow Jefferson County to grow while maintaining its sense of character.

"This is not a no-growth process. This is not creating a museum about Jefferson County," Hankins said.

On Nov. 15 at the hotel, citizens will be able to review a proposed final green infrastructure framework, officials said.

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