Residents of Shepherdstown and surrounding areas should know that on Nov. 8 the Jefferson County Planning Commission recommended rezoning the property south of Morgan's Grove Park from Rural District to Industrial-Commercial District. This was in response to an application from property owner Peter Corum to expand operations for distributing Jefferson County agricultural products. What many supporters of sustainable agriculture in Jefferson County may not know is that:
1. Rezoning to Industrial-Commercial District would allow heavy industrial use (such as petroleum refining, sawmills, slaughterhouses, chemical and explosive manufacturing, concrete and cement manufacturing, garbage or animal reduction processing and more) light industrial use and commercial use on a site adjacent to a well-used park, surrounded by homes and one mile from historic Shepherdstown.
2. The agricultural goals that Mr. Corum maintains he wants to achieve can be accomplished under the current zoning through a Conditional Use Permit. County staff indicated to Mr. Corum that they would work with him to allow these uses, and there should be no problem allowing them under the existing zoning. They also indicated that in their view, rezoning this site as Industrial Commercial was inconsistent with the Jefferson County Comprehensive Plan.
Regardless of what facilities Mr. Corum ultimately decides to install at this site, zoning is attached to the property, not the owner. If and when Mr. Corum sells the property, future owners will have the right to develop the site for any number of industrial uses having nothing to do with county agriculture. Mr. Corum maintains that setback requirements for industrial uses preclude any such development on the site. But these requirements can be waived by the Board of Zoning Appeals. Exemptions can and do happen and existing requirements provide no protection from industrial activity.
The Planning Commission overrode their staff's recommendations to deny this rezoning. They dismissed the objections of at least seven nearby homeowners who attended the hearing and those of Mike Austin, President of the Shepherdstown Men's Club which owns the park. The issue now goes to the County Commission for final decisionmaking. Please contact Commissioners and voice your concerns about rezoning.
In short, those who support local agriculture can do so under existing zoning. But if rezoning is approved, industrial uses will be allowed right at Shepherdstown's back door.