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Jefferson planners reject project zoning change

June 13, 2007|by DAVE McMILLION

CHARLES TOWN, W.VA. - Jefferson County Planning Commission members decided Tuesday night that a controversial $250 million office space project proposed along Millville Road next to Harpers Ferry (W.Va.) National Historical Park is not compatible with a county comprehensive growth plan.

The comprehensive plan is a document that gives general direction on how the county should grow.

Planning Commission member John Sidor said there are many objectives in the comprehensive plan, but the natural and historic resources in the area where the office complex is planned "outweigh" the development of the site.

Jefferson County Commissioner Jim Surkamp, who sits on the planning commission, said the comprehensive plan has a growth boundary and the site of the office complex is outside that boundary.

"That was crucial," Surkamp said during a break in the meeting.

"Why put this in a historic treasure?" Surkamp asked.

Attorneys for the developers could not be reached for comment after the meeting.

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The planning commission's decision will be sent to the Jefferson County Commission, which is being asked by the developers to rezone the 410-acre site from agricultural use to commercial use to allow the project.

The planning commission's decision is being sent to the county commissioners to help them make a decision about the rezoning, planning commission member Ed Dunleavy said.

Developers of the project have promoted it as a way to create 6,000 jobs in Jefferson County and give county residents a place to work without having to commute to nearby metropolitan areas.

That is important, given that by the year 2010, about 60 percent of the county's work force is expected to go out of the county for work, Jim Campbell, an attorney for the developers, said during a planning commission hearing on the proposal last week.

Despite Campbell's comments, some are concerned how the office complex would affect traffic congestion in the Harpers Ferry area and how it would affect Harpers Ferry National Historical Park.

Park Superintendent Donald Campbell said he is concerned how glare from office-building windows and noise from the complex would affect the park.

Although Jim Campbell said during his presentation that the office buildings would be below a "tree canopy" that extends about 65 feet into the air, Donald Campbell contended the office complex cannot be hidden.

It is not clear when the issue of the rezoning will be considered by the county commission.

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