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Annexation plans set to be discussed at meeting

By Staff | Dec 24, 2010

A team of developers plan to propose the annexation of land just west of town.

The Rumsey Development Group purchased part of the land in 2007 that encompasses Sheetz along Route 45. The rest of the land is under contract to be purchased, according to Eric Lewis, a partner of the development group.

The developers will meet with Shepherdstown Town Council members at a special session Jan. 5 for the first reading of the 16-acre plot annexation.

Lewis said the land was originally thought to be a space for 40 townhomes but will now be a “mixed-use” commercial and residential center.

While he isn’t ready to reveal illustrations of ideas until the meeting in January, Lewis said Phase I of the project would be constructing a new state-of-the-art Sheetz and a traffic light. The gas pumps to the Sheetz would be behind the store, something already approved by corporate, to make the entrance to the historic downtown area more attractive.

Lewis also said that there would be an urgent care office, a bank and other types of stores and apartments in the center.

But, he said, this wouldn’t be like most shopping centers people see today.

“What we don’t want is to create another cookie-cutter shopping center,” Lewis said. “Shepherdstown is a unique town.”

The area would be walkable to the historic downtown area while fitting in with the architecture of the shops and buildings along the main street of Shepherdstown.

At Monday night’s planning commission meeting, those who were present discussed the possible annexation.

Commissioner David Springer said in recent meetings the commission has discussed smart growth, which controls sprawl, and should prepare to look at the character of the structures because he thinks some recent growth has been “offensive” to some residents.

Commissioner David Rosen said the land doesn’t even have to get annexed by the town. The developers could put up whatever they want to in county limits, he said.

“When you think back, think of Maddex Farms,” Mayor Jim Auxer said to commissioners, stressing that the town should try to work with developers.

Zoning Officer Harvey Heyser said town council will have an “aggressive schedule” to deal with, as Jan. 5 is the first step and councilors will have to make a decision by their Feb. 8 meeting.

Procedure for annexation after the submission and notification of the annexation petition is a meeting with the finance committee to hear the petitioner’s financial impact on the town.

“Commercial areas pay their way,” Heyser said, noting this might be a factor when deciding to annex the Rumsey Development Group’s property.

Next there will be the initial reading to town council. Councilors will motion to schedule a second reading with or without changes or motion to table or deny the request.

If there is a second reading, councilors would then approve, deny or table the annexation. If approved, it would go on to the Jefferson County Commission.

Lewis, who is a Shepherdstown resident, said he and others from the Rumsey Development Group welcome residents’ input at the council meetings. They will introduce concept plans Jan. 5.

He thinks locals will be excited by what they have in store as they are all from Jefferson County.

“We all live here, we grew up here,” Lewis said. “And we wouldn’t build anything we didn’t believe would be a positive addition to the community.”