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Officials press on with UGB

By Staff | Dec 31, 2010

At last week’s Shepherdstown Water and Sanitary Board special meeting, the board defined a service area to pass on to the town’s planning commission to consider when determining the urban growth boundary (UGB).

But Frank Welch, director of public works for the town, said that while there has always been a service area, the one they laid out at the meeting is simply to help the commission in judging where the UGB could be.

“That doesn’t necessarily mean that will be the urban growth area,” Welch said. “The board defined a service area to pass along to planning commission. But it has nothing to do with the urban growth boundary. That’s up to (planning commission).”

At the town’s planning commission meeting on Nov. 15, commissioners invited county officials to educate them further on the UGB and what it would mean for the town.

Commissioners learned that land would be easier to annex within the urban growth boundary and that there would be a memorandum of understanding (MOU) between the town and county, which would allow for comments between the two bodies about projects happening along the boundary. Jennifer Brockman, director of planning and zoning for Jefferson County, said a MOU has not been drafted between Shepherdstown and the county yet.

At the November meeting, Brockman answered questions from the commission.

One issue was the question of annexation of noncontiguous lands within the UGB. In November, Brockman said that was something she would have to get back to commissioners about.

Wednesday, in an email Brockman sent through county zoning administrator, Steve Barney, she maintains the law is difficult to interpret.

“As a planner, it would be hard to believe that it was the intention of the new law to allow annexation of noncontiguous land,” she said. “Because the law is fairly new and Jefferson County is the first to be implementing it, there is no case law to reference for advice so it is up for local interpretation at this point.”

She said county attorneys aren’t able to provide guidance to the municipality because if the boundary went to court, the county attorney would not represent the town.

“The municipal attorneys will need to provide legal advice to their elected body regarding this provision of the law,” Brockman said.

In the meantime, the town is doing what it can to determine what the boundary should be.

Mayor Jim Auxer said while planning commission has a say in defining the UGB, it’s up to town council to approve the line.

And while there is no set time line to finish gathering input from local officials on where the UGB should be, Auxer is hoping to define a boundary “as soon as possible.”

“We’re not rushing it, but we’re not putting it off,” he said. “We’re moving along judiciously.”