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Jefferson County residents discuss new zoning law proposals

July 22, 2008|By DAVE McMILLION

SHENANDOAH JUNCTION, W.Va. -- It was termed as progress, yet it was also called "fatally flawed."

Local farmer Cam Tabb said new proposed land-use laws being considered for Jefferson County support agriculture, yet businessman Lee Snyder said the proposals are "unconscionable" because they attempt to stop building on the Blue Ridge Mountain and make it difficult to upgrade water systems there.

Barbara Humes spoke favorably of the proposed laws, saying they protect the Elk Run watershed, a source of drinking water in the county.

Lyn Widmyer said the proposals can be hard to understand, and said she was concerned about a proposed business park zone that focuses too much on large parking lots, large buildings and automobile transportation.

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Widmyer said the county needs to concentrate on more sustainable economic development that has mixed uses, like retail.

Those were among the comments from the public Monday night on the proposed new land-use laws - or zoning - that is being considered for the county.

County officials are considering new land-use laws after experts told them the county's zoning laws have not been effective in managing urban and suburban growth or protecting agricultural areas.

The initial attempt at drafting new regulations was rough at times, as people called them complicated and contradictory.

County officials have been working on the new document since then and the Jefferson County Planning Commission held Monday's public hearing at Jefferson High School to gauge public opinion of it.

The planning commission's primary job is determining whether the proposal complies with the county's comprehensive plan, which generally says how the county should develop.

Final say on the proposed new zoning is up to the Jefferson County Commission.

Bob Reynolds, vice president of the planning commission, declined to speculate after Monday's hearing about whether the planning commission will agree the plan complies with the comprehensive plan.

Reynolds said he is "quite amazed" by how it complies with the comprehensive plan.

Although the new plan is sometimes criticized, Reynolds said he thinks it is a good foundation for land-use management and can be improved over time.

The current zoning laws cannot be improved, Reynolds said.

The new zoning dictates how historic preservation, affordable housing and open space will be managed in the county while current zoning is silent on the issues, Reynolds said.

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