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Jefferson County commisioner makes proposal on land-use rules

November 14, 2008|By DAVE McMILLION

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. -- With some county residents circulating a petition to put them up for a vote and now a lawsuit pending over them, Jefferson County Commissioner Rusty Morgan said Thursday he is worried about newly passed land-use laws for the county.

If either or both of the challenges to the laws succeed, Morgan said he is worried the county could end up with "primitive" land-use laws.

"What we have without the ordinance is the dark ages," Morgan told the rest of the commission Thursday morning.

To guard against that, Morgan proposed the county consider putting in place previous land-use laws if the new ones are halted over the challenges.

Morgan suggested county officials consider a previous set of regulations that the commission worked to amend to have stricter land development regulations in the county's rural zone.

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Jefferson County Circuit Judge Thomas W. Steptoe Jr. ruled against the amendment attempt, although the commission was told Thursday that the state Supreme Court of Appeals has agreed to hear an appeal of that decision.

Morgan suggested Thursday that the commission revisit the amendments and follow the correct process.

Jefferson County Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Stephanie Grove told Morgan she did not believe the commission could amend the previous laws if they are not in effect.

Commission President Frances Morgan said she feared Rusty Morgan's attempt would confuse people.

The new regulations, which keep up to 80 percent of the county's agriculture and countryside land undeveloped, came after some experts told the commission that the county's previous land-use laws -- or zoning -- did not manage growth well in the county.

Five companies with property interests in the county filed suit against the commission last month in Jefferson County Circuit Court, saying correct procedures were not followed in passing the new laws.

A hearing on the suit is scheduled for Dec. 8 at 9 a.m. before Steptoe.

Although there has been support for the new land-use laws, other residents have said they are excessive. A petition drive is under way to put the laws up for a countywide vote.

About 2,900 signatures are needed to put the laws up for a vote. Petition organizer Ronda Lehman said Thursday she has about 1,700 signatures.

Lehman said her group is working on an upcoming newspaper insert that will have cards that people can sign and mail in to support the petition drive.

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