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Woman leading land-use petition drive in Jefferson County

October 06, 2008|By DAVE McMILLION

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - A Blue Ridge Mountain resident who is heading up an effort to get about 2,900 signatures to put new land-use regulations for Jefferson County up for a vote said Sunday that at least 400 signatures have been obtained since last week.

When Ronda Lehman was asked if she thinks she and her supporters will get the needed signatures to force the issue to a vote, she responded, "absolutely."

"I don't even think it will be hard. It's really spreading through the community quick," Lehman said.

Jefferson County Commissioner Greg Corliss remained doubtful that Lehman will get the required signatures, saying that collecting 2,900 signatures requires "a lot of moving around."

Corliss said the "eventuality of it all" is that the county will have zoning.

Lehman started collecting signatures moments after the Jefferson County Commission on Thursday passed a new set of controversial land-use regulations, also known as zoning.

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The new regulations keep up to 80 percent of the county's agriculture and countryside land undeveloped but also expand the county's business park zones by 30 percent, and allow farmers to diversify into new areas like warehousing, welding shops or trucking businesses.

Despite support for the regulations, others in the county say they are complicated, out-of-touch for the area and will be expensive for landowners to follow.

When Commissioner Dale Manuel was unsuccessful Thursday in convincing the other four commissioners to put the regulations up for a referendum, Lehman and her supporters began relying on a recently passed state law that allows citizens to put the issue up for a vote.

Under the law, 10 percent of registered voters who are affected by the new laws can sign a petition to put the laws up for a referendum. Citizens living in the county's five municipalities cannot sign the petition.

The required signatures to put the issue on the ballot must be done in 90 days, giving Lehman and her supporters a Jan. 2 deadline.

On the petition, supporters sign their name, list their address and date it, Lehman said. Lehman said she has talked with officials in the Jefferson County Clerks' office and the Secretary of State's office and they said the form of the petition looks fine.

Lehman said she wants all petition efforts to go through her so she can keep the process organized. She also said she will be working with the county clerk's office to count and verify signatures as they are collected.

So far, Lehman said she has about 30 people helping her collect signatures. They included a woman who collected signatures from about 9 a.m. to noon Saturday at the Charles Town post office at the intersection of George and Washington streets.

Del. Bob Tabb, D-Jefferson, said he has been collecting signatures at his business, Town and County Nursery, on Darke Lane in Leetown, W.Va.

Lehman said in a message posted on the listener@yahoogroups.com chat site that she looks forward to people wanting to help her and that she can be found at Jefferson County Youth Football League games or soccer matches at Morgan's Grove Park near Shepherdstown, W.Va.

"I'll be the lady with a leather binder under her arm, and quite possibly a bull's-eye on her chest," Lehman said in the message.

Lehman said Sunday that controlled growth advocates have been "brutal on me," but not since the petition process started.

Tabb criticized the commissioners for not putting zoning on the ballot themselves, saying that making voters do it will probably force people to come out against it.

"They've been forewarned about that," Tabb said.

Corliss said it's a bigger issue about how people want the county to look in coming years.

"Do you want it to look like Berkeley County? I don't think so," Corliss said.




On the Web



Jefferson County's new land-use regulations can be read at the county government's Web site at www.jeffersoncountywv.org or at county libraries.

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