The Rumsey Green Development group will move ahead with plans to apply for annexation with the town of Shepherdstown following a special meeting of the planning commission held last Wednesday, July 18.
The meeting was held to hear a presentation from Placemakers, the consultant hired to instruct the town and the Rumsey Green Development Group on a plan for the potential project.
Rumsey Green is a proposed multi-use center that will be located just west of downtown Shepherdstown on the south side of Route 45.
Following a series of public hearings and months of work with Placemakers, the Rumsey Green Development Group, which originally submitted an annexation proposal last January, will now sit down with Mayor Jim Auxer and Zoning Officer Harvey Heyser to revise its original plans for the development.
According to the Placemakers presentation Wednesday, the revised "form-based" development plan would be modeled after the nationally recognized "Lake Forest" shopping center outside of Chicago. Ill. and would provide the functionality of suburban strip malls, with an aesthetic tailored to downtown Shepherdstown's historic nature.
Instead of installing a new traffic light to direct traffic into the center, as was originally proposed by the development group, Placemakers suggested a traffic circle be constructed to slow traffic and ease it into the development as well as the downtown area.
Placemakers also suggested constructing inexpensive colonnades as a way to disguise from an unattractive parking lot, and suggested ideas for increased walk-ability by way of paths and green spaces.
Enthusiastic about Placemakers's suggestions, Eric Lewis, a member of the development group, said after the meeting that though the traffic circle for example, would ultimately be more costly to the developers, his group is interested in implementing whatever plan is the best fit for Shepherdstown.
At the meeting Wednesday, Shepherdstown Business Association President Meredith Wait raised concerns about an "unequal playing field" and keeping the businesses downtown "competitive" in the face of a new development,
She asked if the new development would be held to the same rules and restrictions that govern the development of downtown businesses.
Planning Commission President Josh Stella echoed Wait's concerns, but gave assurances that the commission would do all it could to carefully pursue annexation without undermining the success of existing businesses.
"If we lose the downtown businesses, the character of the town goes away," he said.
Lewis said that the group wants to work cooperatively with the town to ensure the new development would benefit everyone.
"It's not going to hurt downtown. That's our goal," he said.
Lewis said Rumsey Green will include an anchor grocery store, bank and the renovated Sheetz convenience store and gas station.
Lewis also said he hopes the development will provide a location for services that could not otherwise be found in the greater Shepherdstown area.
An urgent care center and assisted-living housing are proposed ideas for the development, as well as dentist and physical therapy offices.
Lewis said he was very happy with how Wednesday's meeting went and said he and the development group are excited to move forward with the revised vision, which he thinks could potentially garner national acclaim for Shepherdstown.
"We're thrilled to be moving along in the process," he said.
Lewis said that one of the goals of the development group, which includes town residents Chris Colbert and Chaz and Cricky Shultz, is to offer Shepherdstown something new, but also something everyone in Shepherdstown can be proud of.
"We all live here, so we want it to be the best product it could be."