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Idea for new town shot down

February 19, 2009|By RICHARD F. BELISLE, Special to The Herald-Mail

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. -- Jefferson County Commissioners Patsy Noland and Dale Manuel opted Thursday to let those who would be affected be allowed to vote on whether Mannings, W.Va., should become the county's sixth incorporated town.

The people in Mannings, a spread-out stretch of homes, a mobile home park and country store on Blue Ridge Mountain, won't get a chance to determine their own destiny, at least not this time around.

The commission's majority - Lynn Widmyer, Jim Surkamp and Frances Morgan - voted to deny a petition circulated by local developer Paul Ashbaugh requesting the incorporation.

The trio felt it was time to vote because there has been enough discussion from people on both sides of the issue and enough deliberation by the commission.

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Ashbaugh said he owns about half of the 700-plus acres that make up the Mannings area along W.Va. 9 about five miles southeast of Charles Town. He said 78 landowners signed his petition. The population of Mannings is "roughly 900 people, including men, women and children, but only landowners could sign the petition," he said.

Ashbaugh said he will circulate a new petition if he gets enough support in a straw poll he plans to take Sunday at a closed meeting of landowners at the Blue Ridge Fire Department.

Ashbaugh told the commissioners before their vote he plans some commercial development in the area, including a shopping center anchored by a Food Lion grocery store he claims would bring in 50 to 60 full-time jobs.

The county's planning commission, health department and the mayors of Bolivar and Harpers Ferry oppose the incorporation, the commission said.

Widmyer called Ashbaugh's plan "a lot of glitter and generalities. You just wanted to run it up the flagpole and see who salutes it. This is more about private profit seeking."

Ashbaugh admitted he would "benefit more than most" with incorporation.

The commission raised issues of public services such as water and sewer and police protection and taxes common to incorporated communities.

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