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Jefferson County leaders think land-use plan needs work

November 27, 2007|By DAVE McMILLION

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - A massive document that is taking a new look at how Jefferson County will grow in coming years is generating fears at opposite ends of the spectrum.

Jefferson County Commissioner Dale Manuel said Monday he is worried that parts of the plan are too restrictive while Commissioner Greg Corliss is concerned that too much residential development is in store for the county.

Jefferson County residents will get their first shot at commenting on the growth plan during a public meeting at 7 p.m. Wednesday at the Shepherdstown Men's Club in Shepherdstown, W.Va.

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

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Kendig Keast officials have said the county's current land-use laws have not been effective in managing urban and suburban growth or protecting agricultural areas.

The proposed new growth plan is 276 pages and Corliss said some people have complained that they need a "new pair of reading glasses to read it. It is long. It's the nature of the beast," Corliss said.

On the positive side, Corliss said he is satisfied with many parts of the proposed new zoning ordinance and said it will give predictability to county land-use regulations.

Builders will no longer be able to put subdivisions in the middle of a rural area with a so-called LESA scoring system, and areas that are residential will stay residential and areas set aside for agriculture will remain that way, Corliss said. Most of the county's land would remain in an agricultural zone under the plan.

But Corliss said he is troubled by projections by county planning officials who say that the county could ultimately end up with a population between 145,000 and 165,000 under the plan.

The county's current population is about 50,000.

Corliss said when he campaigned for office, he thought the maximum population for the county should be 75,000.

"The problem with the county is we have too much residential growth and not enough commercial growth. One hundred and sixty thousand, I think, is out of the question. It's too much," Corliss said.

Commissioner Jim Surkamp would not comment Monday on how he felt about population projections for the county, but said he thinks that will be one of the major debates about the plan.

Manuel said the plan says that intensive agricultural operations must be at least a quarter-mile from residential areas, which he thinks is too restrictive.

Manuel said he also is concerned about building restrictions on sloped lots on the Blue Ridge Mountain because they could create hardships on property owners there.

Manuel rattled off other areas of concern, including that country inns can only have a customer for seven consecutive days and that there would be restrictions on how people put up "auxiliary" buildings on their land like garages.

"There's a lot of stuff in here that has to go, in my opinion," Manuel said.

County officials are preparing to kick off a string of six public meetings across the county through Dec. 15 to gain public input on the plan.

After those meetings and the commission considers the comments, it is possible more public meetings could be held, Corliss said.

The commission has the final say on the plan, which could become effective in March, Corliss said.




Jefferson County land-use meetings



The schedule for the meetings is as follows:

SHEPHERDSTOWN DISTRICT: Wednesday, 7 p.m. at the Shepherdstown Men's Club at 102 E. German St., in Shepherdstown, W.Va.

KABLETOWN DISTRICT: Tuesday, Dec. 4, at 7 p.m., at South Jefferson Elementary School at 4599 Summit Point Road.

HARPERS FERRY DISTRICT: Thursday, Dec. 6, at 7 p.m., at C.W. Shipley Elementary School at 652 Shipley School Road off U.S. 340.

MIDDLEWAY DISTRICT: Monday, Dec. 10, at 7 p.m., at the Country Day School at 449 Ross Hill Drive off W.Va. 51.

CHARLES TOWN DISTRICT: Wednesday, Dec. 12, at 7 p.m., at Blue Ridge Elementary School at 18866 Charles Town Road on the Blue Ridge Mountain.

CHARLES TOWN DISTRICT: Saturday, Dec. 15, at 10 a.m., in the lower level of the Charles Town Library at 200 E. Washington St.

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