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Letter causes stir at commission meeting

By Staff | Feb 25, 2011

Discussion broke out at Monday’s planning commission meeting when a group of residents presented a letter showcasing their concerns.

The letter, which was addressed to the members of the planning commission, demonstrated the main contentions this resident group has with the revitalization project.

In the letter, the residents argue, among other things, that the criteria for National Park Service assistance in the case of the riverfront revitalization project have not been met.

The letter read, ” Project selection criteria for funding from the NPS’ Rivers, Trails, and Conservation Assistance Program (RTCA) explicitly state that there must be ‘… evidence of broad support for the project.'”

The group argued that broad community support for the project has not been demonstrated.

Though the group expressed gratitude for the efforts of the riverfront project membership, Traci Morris, who read the letter aloud on behalf of the group, said that the riverfront team has not done enough to consider the interest of residents, particularly those who own property along the riverfront, Town Run Ravine and the Rumsey Monument Park area.

The residents also expressed concern with the “scope” of the project.

According to the letter, residents fear that the collaboration with the NPS could result in substantial changes to the town’s appearance as well as the “quality of life” of its citizens, who are reticent to accept the implementation of certain ” Blue Sky” ideas that may be under discussion by the partnership, like the creation of a motorboat launch or a lot for additional parking.

“We residents do not wish to see over one-third of the area of our current town limits dominated by a connection with the National Park Service,” the letter stated.

Six residents were behind the composing of the letter presented Monday, including, Rebecca Phipps, Maura Balliett, Rana Harmon, Morris, Zenia Tkach and Patrinka Kelch.

Josh Stella, commission president, expressed his interest in providing “direct oversight” for the partnership via the planning commission, but explained that further public discussion of the project would be best suited before the town council, as planning commission has not been granted any authority over the riverfront project, which has yet to make any proposals before the commission.

Stella said he personally contacted the riverfront committee via letter, expressing similar concerns about the scope of revitalization project and the impact it would have on residents.

In his letter, Stella offered a set of provisions that relate to the use of riverfront property.

It stated, “The citations include language that is also reflected in opinions expressed by some of the residents of the area, for example, … uses should be compatible with the small, quiet, open character of the community.'”

It went on to explain that the planning commission will rely on the citations provided when reviewing any potential proposals made by the riverfront partnership.

According to Kelch, a resident of the ravine, the group plans to make similar presentations at town council and “all meetings pertaining to the riverfront.”

The next riverfront revitalization meeting is scheduled for Monday, March 14 at 10 a.m. at the Shepherdstown Train Station.