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Group opposed to being listed in National Register

Farmers and property owners in Bullskin Run Watershed are worried that inclusion would restrict use of land

September 01, 2011|By RICHARD F. BELISLE | richardb@herald-mail.com

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. — Ward Zigler, a farmer in Jefferson County's Bullskin Run Watershed, is the linchpin of a campaign to stop nearly 5,000 acres from being listed in the National Register of Historical Places.

Zigler, 77, told the Jefferson County Commission Thursday that farmers and property owners are worried that inclusion in the register would place restrictions on the use of their properties and make them fall under restrictive local zoning laws.

The best estimates on the number of properties in the proposed area was more than 80, according to Zigler and state and local officials involved in the issue.

Zigler said more than 30 letters from property owners opposed to the listing were sent this week to Susan M. Pierce, deputy historic preservation officer with the West Virginia Division of Culture and History in Charleston, W.Va.

Zigler wrote, distributed and collected the letters and mailed them certified to Pierce Monday, he said.

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Pierce had notified the county commissioners by letter, received on July 11, of her agency's attempt to nominate Bullskin Run for the National Register, which falls under the U.S. Department of the Interior. Legal notices also were published in two local newspapers, she said. The deadline for public comments was Tuesday.

According to a map of the proposed district, it runs east from Summit Point to the point where Bullskin Run and its north branch meet.

The state has been working on the nomination with the Jefferson County Landmarks Commission for five years, Commission President John Allen said Thursday.

Nominations were sent to the feds for review twice before and were rejected both times because of boundary issues, Allen said.

Efforts have been under way to list the Bullskin Run area since 1999 when it was determined to be eligible by the West Virginia Division of Highways and Federal Highway Administration when planning began to upgrade U.S. 340 from Rippon, W.Va., to the Virginia line.

County commissioners comments Thursday inferred that the state was forcing the listing on the county.

"I'm troubled over the lack of the state to respect local citizens," said Commissioner Lyn Widmyer. "It's all being done on the state level without the county's say."

"How did this get started," said Commissioner Walt Pellish. "This may or may not be an isolated incident. We need to know how it got started."

"This was done very discreetly," Noland said.

Jennifer Brockman, director of planning, said owners can nominate their own property if it meets the criteria. "In most cases property owners asked to be listed."

According to Pierce and Allen, listing a property on the register has no effect or restrictions on an owner's rights. The property can be sold and there are no requirements or prior permission needed for alterations and repairs. The property does not have to be maintained and it can be sold or even demolished.

Listing on the register provides benefits such as tax credits for repairs and eligibility for federal grants, Pierce said.

When reminded of the lack of restrictions and the benefits listed by Pierce and Allen, Zigler's only comment was, "Not true."

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