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Jefferson County's new land-use map prompts discussion

January 04, 2008|By DAVE McMILLION

CHARLES TOWN, W.VA. - The Jefferson County Commissioners on Thursday had a lively discussion at times over whether to continue to receive public comments on a new land-use map for the county.

The commissioners have been considering new land-use regulations - also known as zoning - for the county after a firm told them that the county's current land-use laws have not been effective in managing urban and suburban growth or protecting agricultural areas.

The commissioners say a proposed set of new regulations will give predictability to county land-use regulations, although the regulations have been criticized by some local residents for being complicated and contradictory.

Accompanying the new regulations is a map of the county that shows how various pieces of land in the county can be used by property owners.

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For example, some land is reserved for agriculture, some is set aside as commercial and other land is designated residential.

Although the public comment period for the first draft of the regulations ended Wednesday, Commissioner Rusty Morgan said Thursday he thinks public comment should still be allowed on the zoning map since people are still finding out about the map.

Those people might be disappointed that certain land is not zoned the way they believe it should be, Morgan said.

"This should be an open process. As open as we can make it," Morgan said.

Commissioner Dale Manuel proposed leaving the comment period on the zoning map open until the commission decides to close it. The motion failed.

Commission President Frances Morgan said further comments on the zoning map will be considered as the commission moves forward in its consideration of the new regulations.

"Nobody will be cut off," Commissioner Greg Corliss said.

Manuel previously expressed concern about the new land-use regulations and how they put restrictions on sloped lots on the Blue Ridge Mountain.

Manuel said he was concerned about the new regulations putting hardships on property owners there.

A group calling itself the Mountain Heritage Task Force appeared before the commission Thursday to express concern about the Blue Ridge Mountain regulations.

One member of the group said there has never been a problem with landslides on the mountain, and local attorney Jim Campbell, who accompanied the group, said building on sloped lots can be dealt with through engineering techniques.

Manuel proposed eliminating the entire section of the new zoning regulations dealing with the Blue Ridge Mountain and starting over on that part of the process.

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

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