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About 1,100 have voted already in zoning ordinance referendum

November 03, 2009|By RICHARD F. BELISLE

CHARLES TOWN, W.VA. -- As of 11 a.m. Tuesday, about 1,100 Jefferson County residents had taken advantage of early voting on the countywide zoning ordinance that comes up in a referendum vote Saturday.

Early voting ends today at 5 p.m. on the first floor of the county courthouse.

Polls will be open Saturday from 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. in 25 of the county's 31 regular voting precincts, County Clerk Jennifer Maghan said.

Only residents in the county's unincorporated areas are eligible to cast ballots in the referendum. Those who live in the county's five incorporated cities -- Charles Town, Ranson, Harpers Ferry, Bolivar and Shepherdstown -- cannot vote because countywide zoning does not affect their towns.

That's why polling places in the incorporated towns will not open Saturday.

Even residents who live within an incorporated city and who own property in the county are not eligible to vote Saturday, said Jennie Brockman, director of planning for the county.

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The Jefferson County Commission in October 2008 adopted a new, revised zoning ordinance along with new subdivision regulations that dovetail with it.

The ordinance that was in place before then is in conflict with the new subdivision regulations. If the voters turn the revised ordinance down it will require major revisions to the old one compatible with the new set of subdivision regulations, Brockman said.

Opponents of the new ordinance garnered the required signatures of 10 percent of the county's registered voters on a petition to force the county commissioners to hold Saturday's referendum.

Called nontraditional zoning by Brockman, the old ordinance allows land-use issues to be decided on a case-by-case basis using a point system called Land Evaluation System Assessment (LESA), Brockman said. Rezoning requests required review by the planning commission and public hearings.

Under the revised or traditional zoning ordinance adopted in October 2008, a map divides land into zoned categories -- residential, agricultural, commercial, industrial and the like.

Under its rules, a landowner can't propose something that isn't on the zoning map.

"As a landowner, you will have certainty on how your land will be used. And your neighbor will, too," Brockman said.

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