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Subdivision regulations to be reviewed more

October 04, 2008|By TRISH RUDDER

BERKELEY SPRINGS, W.Va. - New subdivision regulations were not approved Tuesday night by the Morgan County Commission.

The regulations will be discussed and could be voted on at the Oct. 17 commission meeting, Commission President Glen R. Stotler said.

About 25 people attended the public hearing and voiced their opinions about the draft subdivision regulations that were approved by the county planning commission.

Most sections were accepted at the hearing, some needed further review and some alternative language was suggested for better clarification.

The language on proffers and time limits for developers will need additional legal review, Stotler said.

Voluntary proffers were added to the subdivision ordinance, and Fred Blackmer, director of government affairs of the Eastern Panhandle Home Builders Association, did not like the language.

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He said proffers cannot be used as a condition of approval.

He said the document could be worded that the developer could "entertain" proffers, but it is not legally binding.

Blackmer said West Virginia law states that proffers can be used in lieu of impact fees, but impact fees must be in place by a county ordinance. In other words, as part of the Local Powers Act, a zoning ordinance must be adopted.

Resident George Farnham said the subdivision regulation on proffers does not have "teeth," and all the county can do is "ask."

Commissioner Brenda J. Hutchinson said after the meeting that the proffer language in the subdivision regulation is "nothing more than a smokescreen because it is unenforceable unless it is connected to the Local Powers Act."

He said without a zoning ordinance in the county, there is no way to impose proffers.

Katy Fidler of Newbraugh Development Co., a real estate company that has property in Morgan County, said time limits for the developer should be extended from two years to five years, from the time of approval of the preliminary plat to complete all the work.

Fidler, the government affairs committee chair for the Eastern Panhandle Home Builders Association, said the state guarantees five years. She said, in most jurisdictions, the developer can sell lots before the infrastructure is complete.

Stotler said the commission will ask for further legal review by County Attorney Richard Gay.

Hutchinson said other areas of the document such as "encouraging" no wells and septics in the flood plain and "encouraging" a 50-foot riparian buffer on a stream bank is nothing more than window dressing because they cannot be enforced by the planning commission.

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