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Morgan County officials and residents debate zoning

October 04, 2007|By TRISH RUDDER

BERKELEY SPRINGS, W.Va. The Morgan County Commission has been meeting in a trailer since the county courthouse was destroyed by fire in August 2006, and the trailer was packed with people and opinions Thursday morning.

Zoning was the topic at the commission's meeting, and residents were ready to express their feelings on the subject.

At the end of the meeting, Commissioner Brenda J. Hutchinson made a motion for both a land-use study and a citizen advisory group to discuss the pros and cons of zoning. But Commissioners Glen R. Stotler and Thomas R. Swaim declined to second her motion.

Local resident Barbara Tutor, who requested to be on the meeting's agenda, asked the commissioners to direct the county Planning Commission to put the cluster development subdivision regulations that are being drafted "on hold."

She asked approval be given instead to proceed to Phase 2 of the county's Comprehensive Plan, which calls for a land-use study and report to evaluate zoning.

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Tutor said one of the problems was that people were "polarized" about zoning and "there's a lot to be looked at zoning or smart growth or whatever it is."

She said the county needs to enact ordinances to protect "sensitive areas vital for sustained healthful water, air, forests and farms."

"Without specific ordinances to put the comprehensive plan into practice, cluster development will open up the county to large-scale unplanned development in every part of Morgan County," Tutor said.

Hutchinson said she wanted the Planning Commission to study land use before cluster development goes further.

Hutchinson said Jack Soronen, Planning Commission president, told her he would need a directive from the Morgan County Commission, and the money being spent on cluster development would be used for a land-use study.

Alma Gorse, county planner, said about $2,000 has been spent on cluster development and paid to Arro Consulting, the county engineering firm.

The public made many comments both for and against zoning during the two-hour meeting.

Stotler said he would not give the Planning Commission a directive but would be interested in an advisory committee put together by the Morgan County Commission with groups both for and against zoning.

"I would like to see some dialogue," Stotler said.

"Dialogue at this point without information is just a shouting match," Tutor said. "We need authority to take this forward."

"Zoning is not the answer to all of our ills, but we should spend our money on Phase 2 instead of on piecemeal subdivision cluster development (regulations)," Hutchinson said.

Stotler, president of the three-person county commission, said he did not want to "stop one to start the other."

He said he will talk with the Planning Commission before making a decision on the study or on a group discussion.

Coolfont's planned new community in Cold Run Valley will have about 1,200 homes built in clustered developments and is owned by Carl M. Freeman Cos.

Freeman has had sketch-plat meetings with planning staff to discuss cluster development, Gorse had said.

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