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Sharp words exchanged at Jefferson County Commission debate

October 15, 2008|By DAVE MCMILLION

SHENANDOAH JUNCTION, W.Va. - When Jefferson County Commission candidate Paul Ashbaugh was asked Tuesday night to comment on protecting the county's rural landscape and how he would address light pollution at night, he got suspicious.

"I don't know who came up with that idea," Ashbaugh said, referring to the notion that there was a problem with too much lighting in the county.

"Must have been a no-growther," Ashbaugh said as he also took a parting shot at the Jefferson County Commission's recent decision to pass a law controlling excessive dog barking in the county.

"I guess we'll have to go around and muzzle all the dogs," Ashbaugh said.

The exchange was one of a number of testy moments during a debate for Jefferson County Commission candidates at Jefferson High School.

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Much of the debate centered around growth issues, and like any day in Jefferson County political circles, there wasn't much holding back.

"The first thing I'd do is fire half of the planning commission. There's going to be some big changes if I'm elected commissioner" Ashbaugh said during the debate sponsored by the League of Women Voters of Jefferson County.

Ashbaugh railed on controlled growth supporters who he said won't take no for an answer when they are defeated on an issue and who live on one acre lots or bigger while they want everyone else to live on a "postage stamp" lot.

Commission candidate Frank Kubic also took aim at county policies, like impact fees, which are fees collected from builders to help pay for new services needed because of growth.

Kubic described impact fees as a "tax on something that doesn't exist" or "taxes on hope."

"There can be nothing worse than that," said Kubic.

Commission candidate Lyn Widmyer said she wants to see a long-term vision for Jefferson County, but two comprehensive plans that have been written for the county have missed the mark. Widmyer spoke in favor of impact fees and said if they had not been implemented, the pressure of raising money for public services would have been shifted to the public.

Widmyer, however, said impact fees do need to be reviewed and perhaps some exemptions to the fees are needed.

Commission candidate Patricia A. "Patsy" Noland said good land use laws are needed for the county to deal with open space needs and county residents need to do whatever they can do to conserve and go easy on the environment. Noland said she has no problems with impact fees, but she wants reasonable ones and feels Jefferson County's fees are not reasonable.

Noland said the fees sometimes hurt people's chances of buying a home.

Candidate Melodie Williams said no one really knows where the county is heading and people have not been well represented. Williams proposed that the commission have regular open discussions with the community where people can sit down with the commissioners over a cup of coffee to discuss issues of the day. Not many people read newspapers, so Williams proposed that the commission send out its own electronic newsletter to keep citizens apprised of issues.

Williams said the county needs to take better advantage of its history and maybe focus on the Charles Town and Ranson areas like the approach in Old Town Alexandria, Va.

"We're missing the boat," Williams said.

Kubic spoke in a loud, stern voice and looked intently into the audience of about 25 people and criticized county land use laws that limit what a property owner can do on his land, yet is forced to pay taxes on it. County government is no longer for the people, but for money, Kubic said.

Ashbaugh, an Independent, Widmyer, a Democrat and Williams, a Republican are running for the Harpers Ferry commission seat in the Nov. 4 general election. Kubic, a Republican, and Noland, a Democrat, are running for the Kabletown seat.

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