UPDATE: County commission to hear request at Dec. 8 meeting
In a meeting held Thursday, Nov. 17 the Jefferson County Commission met and voted to delay consideration of a request made to rezone the property outside of Morgan’s Grove Park until a meeting scheduled for Dec. 8.
After approximately an hour of discussion, the a majority of the commission voted to move the agenda item to the meeting on the eighth, which would allow for planning and zoning director Jennifer Brockman to be present for the proceedings and will give planning and zoning staff additional time to prepare.
The delay will also offer interested members of the public an opportunity to be present for the discussion and will allow the Shepherdstown Planning Commission an opportunity to meet and comment on the issue should they so choose.
Shepherdstown Men’s Club president Mike Austin, whose organization owns the park land, reported being happy with the decision made by the commission.
“It was a good outcome for us. It gives us more time to inform the community about what’s going on,” he said.
The item is on the agenda for the Shepherdstown planning commission’s regular meeting scheduled for Monday, Nov. 21 at 7 p.m. at Town Hall.
Prior to the county commission hearing Thursday, members of the Shepherdstown community sought to delay a rezoning vote for property located just outside of Morgan’s Grove Park.
Shepherdstown resident and Men’s Club President Mike Austin has spearheaded an effort to mobilize public interest in the issue following a decision made by the county planning commission to approve a request for the rezoning of 13.69 acres of land from “rural” to “industrial-commercial.”
The land, owned by Shepherdstown resident Peter Corum, has been used as the site for the weekly Morgan’s Grove Market and community garden.
According to the request submitted to the county planning and zoning department, Corum and his partners seek a new zoning classification in order to pursue plans to develop various sustainability-related artisan- and agribusinesses in that location.
Though Austin said he supports the “laudable” nature of the projects being proposed for the space, he is concerned by the course the request has taken.
“We’re concerned about both the impact on our adjoining property, which is Morgan’s Grove Park, and also the impact on the zoning process in Jefferson County,” he said.
According to Jennifer Brockman, Jefferson County director of planning and zoning, the request was approved by the county planning commission last week despite a recommendation made by her department not to approve.
According to the staff report issued by the county planning and zoning department, the request made to rezone the property did not fall into conformance with the county’s comprehensive plan.
Brockman said that while the planning and zoning department appreciated the request’s intent, staff members did not find the requested zoning classification appropriate for the various uses described by the applicant.
The staff report stated, “Staff believes all of these intended uses are more appropriate in the Residential-Light-Industrial-Commercial district.”
Austin, who called the request “excessive,” said he is most concerned about the potential misuse of the property under an industrial-commercial zoning classification by future owners.
“Though we would like to work with them as good neighbors to pursue activities such as the farmers market, we’re concerned about future owners who may not be concerned with surrounding area,” he said.
Both Austin and Shepherdstown Mayor Jim Auxer submitted letters to the president of the Jefferson County Commission, Patsy Noland, this week to encourage the scheduling of a public hearing regarding the request, citing a history of public concern among residents whose properties neighbor the area under discussion.
The mayor requested that the county commission delay consideration of the rezoning request until December so that Shepherdstown’s Planning Commission may have an opportunity to weigh in on the matter.
Though the area under discussion does not fall under the jurisdiction of the Shepherdstown planning commission, Mayor Auxer explained that the issue impacted ” the greater Shepherdstown Area” as described in Shepherdstown’s comprehensive plan. This includes areas within the Town Run watershed, the town utility service areas and along “gateway arteries” that lead in and out of town.
The county commission met Thursday, Nov. 17 and discussed the proposed request. At press time, a decision on the request had not been reached.
Due to scheduling conflicts, Peter Corum could not be reached directly for comment at press time.