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Planning commission hears Rumsey Green progress

By Staff | Jun 24, 2011

Aside from their regular business, Monday the Shepherdstown Planning Commission met with a local resident about the addition of solar panels on his Washington Street home and heard an update from the Rumsey Development Group on Rumsey Green.

After meeting with the Shepherdstown Historic Landmarks Commission last week, Washington Street resident Joe Yates fielded advice and questions from planning commissioners regarding a potential addition of photovoltaics to his property.

Yates presented commissioners with an illustration of his property and where the most efficient places would be to collect sunlight, his south-facing roof along Washington Street being the most desirable place.

According to historic landmarks guidelines regarding solar collectors, they “should be on rear sections of the roof of a building or in other areas not readily visible to the public.”

But, there is nowhere in Title 9, the town’s ordinance that directly addresses solar collectors.

“Guidelines are guidelines,” said Planning Chair Josh Stella. “They’re not ordinance. They are suggested.”

Still some commissioners were at a crossroads as to whether panels visible from a main road in the historic district was an option. Commission Kathryn Bragg-Stella likened photovoltaics to storm windows, which are defined in Title 9, while Commissioner David Rosen said the utility is similar to chimneys or air conditioners it is just a newer power source that makes the home run.

They discussed other options with Yates, like placing panels on an east-facing roof, which would be partially visible from Washington Street, or a secondary building on an adjacent property he owns.

Commissioner Karene Motivans said Shepherdstown is the town that wants to both preserve its historic roots as well as make strides in energy conservation.

“So how do you blend those two without overshadowing the other?” she said.

Commissioners also discussed the possibility, should Yates choose to file an application for a permit, planting trees to somewhat mask the solar panels from the main street if he would choose to put it on the side that is partially visible from Washington Street.

“I think solar panels don’t look bad on a building unless they stand out,” Stella said.

Also at Monday’s meeting, Eric Lewis of the Rumsey Development Group was present to discuss progress on Rumsey Green, the application for annexation west of town.

Lewis wanted to clear up any misconceptions that he thought the commission may have heard over time, one of which being that the group was denied by the county for this project.

“We have never, ever applied to the county for any commercial or any other types” of entities, Lewis told commissioners at the meeting. He said that the county did approve 48 townhomes five years ago; however, that project was scrapped to pursue this multi-use Rumsey Green project that they are in the process of applying for annexation with the town now.

Another thing that worries Lewis that residents will think that whatever businesses will be put in this multi-use complex will compete with downtown businesses.

“The thing that concerns me the most is the perception that we would want to build anything out there that would hurt downtown,” he said.

Lewis talked about putting a large grocery store, an urgent care and a new Sheetz which would be Phase I among other components in the Rumsey Green complex. He talked with commissioners on Monday about working out conceptual ideas now and working together on the details later.

At the commission’s regular May meeting, Commissioner David Springer was charged with looking into smart growth, which he talked to Lewis about. This concept, according to the handout Springer distributed at the meeting, is a planning and transportation theory concentrating on growth in compact, walkable urban centers to avoid sprawl.

Lewis said his engineer is well-versed in SmartCode, which is the design module towns can purchase to employ smart growth, and is will design the complex based on smart growth concepts.

Motivans said by using these tenants of smart growth, Shepherdstown can make a “homegrown” version of SmartCode without having to pay for its own individual module.

Lewis said once Rumsey Development Group had more concrete plans, he was hoping to have a public meeting to get feedback from the community.

The next planning commission meeting will be July 18 at 7 p.m.