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Questions arise about input on Jefferson County land-use laws

April 12, 2008|By DAVE McMILLION

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. -- A county resident complained Thursday that Blue Ridge Mountain residents have not had adequate input on Jefferson County's proposed new land-use laws, and a former Jefferson County Commissioner said he was worried how the proposals would affect the small community of Shenandoah Junction, W.Va.

Catherine Waite, co-chairperson of the Mountain Heritage Task Force, which has been monitoring the new land-use proposals, told the county commissioners that county officials have not valued the input of Blue Ridge Mountain residents.

Early in the process, there was concern about new building restrictions on sloped lots on the Blue Ridge Mountain and that they could create hardships on property owners there.

Tony Redman, head of the county's planning department, strongly objected to Waite's comments and said he has met several times with Blue Ridge Mountain representatives on the issue.

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Commissioner Jim Surkamp said Waite's comments were "end-to-end, unfounded" and he raised his voice as he spoke to her.

"Mr. Surkamp, you will not badger this individual," Commission President Frances Morgan said.

Former Commissioner Herb Snyder said the proposed new land-use regulations would make lots in Shenandoah Junction a "nonconforming use."

Shenandoah Junction, a small community of about 377 lots north of Charles Town, was laid out 117 years ago, said Snyder, a longtime resident of the community.

Applying modern lot standards to the existing properties will make them a "nonconforming use" and make it more difficult for homeowners to make additions to their homes or perhaps replace a mobile home with a stick-built house, Snyder said.

Snyder said it is important to protect Shenandoah Junction because some people have bought old homes there and are renovating them, which is beneficial to the county.

Commissioner Greg Corliss acknowledged how people take good care of their homes in Shenandoah Junction and that it is important to help the community.

Snyder said after the meeting that Redman talked to him about lowering minimum required lot sizes in Shenandoah Junction to protect it from the potential problems Snyder spoke about.

The commissioners started drafting new land-use regulations -- called zoning -- after experts told them the county's current land-use laws have not been effective in managing urban and suburban growth or protecting agricultural areas.

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