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Jefferson County land-use process said to be rushed

November 30, 2007|By DAVE McMILLION

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - A lawyer who often represents developers in Jefferson County told county officials Thursday that they are rushing the review process for proposed new land-use laws in the county and said the process needs a longer period of time.

Attorney Peter Chakmakian said the proposed zoning ordinance is very complicated and is not user-friendly.

Considering that it has taken about two years to draft the plan, it is too much to ask that residents give good input on it within a few weeks, Chakmakian said.

This week, the commission kicked off a string of six public meetings on the plan and the meetings run through Dec. 15.

Chakmakian said the review process should extend until about next summer.

Chakmakian expressed other concerns about the plan, including that more than 1,000 acres of land in the county that had been set aside for residential growth now has another use designation attached to it.

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"I can see many years of litigation ahead unless these issues are addressed," Chakmakian said.

Commissioner Rusty Morgan defended the commission's approach on the plan, saying it is too early to be critical of the process.

Commission President Frances Morgan emphasized that Chakmakian often represents developers and that large portions of county residents have yet to be heard from on the plan.

Commissioner Dale Manuel, who has expressed concerns about restrictions in the plan, said he will not automatically vote for it.

The new land-use plan was drafted after it was felt the county's current zoning laws have not been effective in managing urban and suburban growth.

Although parts of the new plan got some favorable response from the public Wednesday night during the first public meeting at the Shepherdstown Men's Club, it also was criticized for being complicated, contradictory and "ridiculous" in how it mandates minute details like what kind fence can be around swimming pools.

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