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County planning decision 'controversial'

November 18, 2011
Michael Austin, SMC President , Shepherdstown Chronicle

The controversial decision of the Jefferson County Planning Commission on Nov. 8 to recommend rezoning of the property adjacent to Morgan Grove Park from "Rural" to "Industrial/Commercial" raised more questions than it resolved. Continued viability of the County Comprehensive Zoning Plan and related policies appear to be at risk. Careful analysis provided by the professional planning staff seemed to carry little weight in the Commission's deliberations while the petitioners were allowed to control the meeting and offer their own interpretation of rules, procedures and implications.

The Staff Report, developed for the benefit of the County Commissioners as well as the Planning Commission, states that "Before amending the zoning ordnance, the governing body must find that the amendment is consistent with the adopted comprehensive plan." The only exception is if there were major changes of an economic, physical or social nature, which were not anticipated when the plan was adopted. The staff analysis did not find that to be the case and recommended that the requested rezoning not be approved because it was not in conformity with the Comprehensive Plan.

We do not object to current commercial operations or reasonable expansion on this neighboring property. We support the staff determination that the existing zoning (Rural) is sufficient. The applicants are asking for a much more intense zoning district classification than is required for the proposed uses. If there are constraints, the Conditional Use Permit was specifically designed for situations such as this in which intended use is outside the norm in the available zoning districts.

As pointed out in the staff analysis, "zoning and all the permitted use allowed continues with the land, not the owner." While current and intended uses of the property may be fully honorable and compatible with the surrounding rural residential area, we have no assurance that activities of future owners will be as benign. This industrial-commercial zone permits heavy or light industry, including manufacturing, processing and commercial activities which may require extensive transportation and central or public water/sewer services. In fact consumer-oriented commercial uses, while permitted are not encouraged in such a zone.

We hope County Commissioner will convene a full public hearing on this matter and carefully consider these points when they make their decision.

 
 
 

 

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