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New zoning rules voted down

November 07, 2009|By RICHARD F. BELISLE

CHARLES TOWN, W.VA. -- The outcome of Saturday's countywide referendum on Jefferson County's proposed new zoning regulations was easy to predict from the outset.

By 8:25 p.m., slightly less than an hour after the polls closed at 7:30 p.m., the first three of 25 precincts reporting showed the question going down by a margin of 2-1.

By press time, with 20 of 25 precincts reported, the tally was 2,348 votes against the new zoning regulations versus 1,404 in favor.

Opponents made a major push to get the measure defeated. They dotted the countryside with large blue signs urging passers-by to "Vote No Against New Zoning." Proponents put up signs, too, but they were fewer and smaller.

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The Jefferson County Commission in October 2008 adopted the new zoning regulations to replace those that had been in place. At the same time, they upgraded the county's subdivision regulations to go along with the new zoning rules.

The existing ordinance, the one that will stay in effect as a result of Saturday's vote, allows land-use requests to be decided on a case-by-case basis through a point system. Under the defeated proposal, development would have been dictated by a map that divided the county into specific land-use zones.

Opponents of the new ordinance filed a petition late last year, signed by the required 10 percent of the county's registered voters, that forced Saturday's referendum.

The defeat did not appear to be too traumatic for the Jefferson County Commission, which adopted the new regulations in 2008.

"Both documents are flawed," commission President Dale Manuel said of both ordinances. "Whatever the outcome is tonight, we have to roll up our sleeves and get to work and we will need a high level of public participation."

Commissioner Jim Surkamp said he was "not heartbroken that it's going down. We can put a lot of what's in the new ordinance into the old one by amendment."

John Maxey, a member of the Jefferson County Planning Commission, said commission members have been unable to do any land-use planning for nearly a year.

"We're stuck between the old and the new ordinances," Maxey said. "We've been anxious for a decision."

Maxey said Saturday's vote was "no disaster. Neither ordinance was perfect. Both needed a lot of amending. Either way, there's a lot of work for the planning commission to do. Now, we'll know where to go."

Residents of Jefferson County's five incorporated towns were not eligible to vote Saturday because the county's zoning regulations do not affect their properties.

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