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Jefferson Co. panel votes not to close roadways

February 09, 2012|By RICHARD F. BELISLE | richardb@herald-mail.com

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. — A barrage of more than 20 letters from parents and residents influenced a Jefferson County Commission’s decision Thursday to vote against closing three unused paper roads and an alley in Shepherdstown, W.Va.

Commissioners Dale Manuel, Frances Morgan and Lyn Widmyer voted against closing the roadways.

Manuel said his vote against the closing was “for the safety of children,” while Morgan said the proposed closings created a conflict between a property owner’s rights and public safety.

Commissioners Walt Pellish and Patsy Noland, arguing for individual property rights, voted to close the streets.

The closings were requested by William and Jo Ann Knode, co-owners of the former W.H. Knode’s Sons Southern States store.

If the number and content of letters opposing the closings that the commission received is an indication, it appeared to be an organized protest.

Most of the letters were signed by parents of students of the Shepherdstown School of Dance. All concerned children’s safety.

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The school’s entrance is at 400 S. Princess St. Extended, a short public street leading onto the Knodes’ property. Parents use that section of the road to drop off their children for dance class, then continue on over the Knodes’ property to a place where it’s wide enough to turn around and head back out.

Otherwise, they wrote in their letters, they would have to drop their children off on Washington or South Princess streets, resulting in children crossing those streets at a busy intersection.

The building housing the dance studio, which until last year was the Shepherdstown Hardware store, is owned by Norman and Jeannie Secrist.

The Knodes own all of the property behind the Secrist building along Town Run and the former Southern States building and land behind it. They filed their petition to have the roads and alley closed after they began construction of a large home on their property behind the Secrists’ building.

The Knodes’ petition to the commission included their request to close the part of South Princess Street Extended that touches their property, as well as Old Prospect Street and part of Fairmont Street, both unused paper streets, and an unnamed alley.

Shepherdstown’s corporate boundary ends at the unnamed alley.

The letter writers and Mercedes Prohaska, owner of the dance studio, said their issue is one of safety.

The  studio is open from 4 to 9 p.m., and has 95 students ranging in age from 3 years old to adults, Prohaska said.

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