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Jefferson Co. Commission to discuss proposed new land-use laws

September 19, 2008

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. -- The Jefferson County Commission will hold a work session next Thursday on proposed new land-use laws for the county.

The commissioners discussed the proposed new laws this week and Commissioner Dale Manuel said one issue that was addressed during recent public hearings is that the new laws have height restrictions that are lower than some houses being built in the county.

The commission held three public meetings on the proposed new laws, and the last hearing was Wednesday night at Jefferson High School.

The county commissioners, who have final say on new regulations, started looking at new land-use -- or zoning -- laws after experts told them the county's current regulations have not been effective in managing urban and suburban growth or protecting agricultural areas.

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Land-use laws proposed for Jefferson County seek to keep up to 80 percent of agriculture and countryside land undeveloped but also to allow businesses to operate in farm buildings and expand the county's business park zones by 30 percent.

The proposals require new housing developments to have up to 15 percent affordable housing, set new standards for protection of historic properties and seek to help farmers be more profitable by allowing them to diversify into areas like warehousing, welding shops or trucking businesses, said Tony Redman, director of the county's planning and zoning departments.

Although some farmers have said they can live with the part of the proposal that deals with agriculture, some professionals in the building community said the document is complicated and poses other potential problems.

Manuel said he thinks there will be a push from voters to put the issue up for a vote.

An election can be held if 10 percent of affected county residents sign a petition to put it on the ballot, Manuel said.

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