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Jefferson County zoning rules curbed

Judge rules against stricter land development regulations

Judge rules against stricter land development regulations

February 28, 2008|By DAVE McMILLION

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. -- A judge has ruled against the Jefferson County government's attempt to have stricter land development regulations in the county's rural zone, according to lawyers in the case.

In April 2005, the Jefferson County Commission added more regulations for developments proposed for the rural zone in addition to the required Land Evaluation Site Assessment (LESA) test, said Nathan Cochran, an attorney representing a group that challenged the regulations in a suit filed in Jefferson County Circuit Court.

Cochran and other lawyers challenging the regulations said Jefferson County Planning Commission members were supposed to be advisers in the drafting of the new regulations, but Circuit Judge Thomas W. Steptoe Jr. ruled that the county did not follow that process properly.

As a result of Steptoe's ruling, the new regulations that the commission imposed for the rural zone have been eliminated and the county is back to the original LESA process, said attorney Peter Chakmakian, another attorney who represented Jefferson County Citizens for Economic Preservation, a group that includes local developers.

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The new regulations also stated that there will be one building lot per 15 acres in the rural zone as opposed to one lot per 10 acres. Now, the county is back to one lot per 10 acres under Steptoe's ruling, lawyers in the case said.

A list of variables is used to score developments under LESA.

Some have criticized LESA for its effectiveness, and new land-use regulations being considered for the county eliminate the system.

James Casimiro, an attorney representing the commission, said he was surprised by Steptoe's ruling, saying he believed that the planning commission and the county commission were properly involved in the drafting of the regulations.

Casimiro said he did not know if the commission will decide to appeal the case because he has not talked with them.

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