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W.Va. county planner is facing opposition to his reappointment

March 30, 2007|by DAVE McMILLION

CHARLES TOWN, W.VA. - People involved in Jefferson County's development industry on Thursday asked the Jefferson County Commission not to reappoint the president of the county's planning commission because they believe he does not judge projects fairly.

Paul Burke is one of 11 candidates seeking three seats on the Jefferson County Planning Commission, which regulates home-building and commercial projects in the county.

Burke was taken to task for what was called an "anti-growth" approach, and Lee Snyder said Burke "simply votes (for) his own political agenda."

There is no place in county government for someone who pushes a particular interest, said Snyder, who runs a utility business in the county.

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Planning commissions in the state are supposed to represent a cross-section of the community, including working families, small business people, farmers and "someone like the person next door," said Fred Blackmer of Jefferson County Citizens for Economic Preservation, which represents the interests of developers.

Activists such as Burke never should be considered for a seat on the planning commission, Blackmer said.

Activists are not like the person next door because they have tremendous advantage when placed in situations where they can control debates and set policy, Blackmer said.

Burke, appearing later before the commission, refuted some of the claims, including one that he once took legal action against the county.

Burke said he has worked hard for issues he believes are important for the county, such as finding ways to lure more commercial growth to the county.

The county commission controls growth, and the planning commission simply enforces land-use regulations, Burke said.

The county commission is expected to fill the three planning commission positions next week.

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