County commission denies rezoning request
In a public hearing, the Jefferson County Commission unanimously voted to deny the request made to rezone 13.69 acres of land located next to Morgan’s Grove Park along Route 480.
The decision came after more than an hour of public testimony and presentations given by planning and zoning staff and the applicants, Peter Corum and Fred
Local residents Corum and Blackmer applied to change the zoning designation of the site from “rural” to “commercial-industrial” in order to develop the property for commercial agricultural businesses designed to promote local farming and sustainability.
Though the request, which was submitted in September, was approved by the county planning commission in November, planning and zoning staff found the request in violation of the Jefferson County comprehensive plan.
Jennifer Brockman, director of the planning and zoning, said that staff also recommended denial of the request due to its potential implications.
She called the requested designation, “the most intense zoning category.”
Seth Rivard, county planner, said that though the staff supported the intended use of the property, the zoning category requested exceeded the applicants’ projected needs.
“Really we’re hear to discuss the merits of the zoning classification,” he said.
In their presentation, Blackmer defended their choice in zoning categories.
According to Blackmer, the “commercial-industrial” classification would guarantee restrictions other proposed categories like “light industrial-residential mixed” do not.
Blackmer said the requested classification prohibits the possibility of heavy industrial development, eliminates controversial discussion regarding high-density residential development at the site and eliminates the need for conditional-use permits, which he’s characterized as “spot zoning.”
Corum argued that the public’s concern was truly with the term ” industrial” and not the nature of the request.
“We’ve asked for the most restrictive zoning in place…I don’t want fear generated by a single word dictating our future,” he said.
Shepherdstown Business Association president Meredith Wait, town council member David Springer and Shepherdstown Community Club president Mike Austin spoke against the approval of the request Thursday, along with nearly 20 more local residents.
Amy Mathews Amos and John Amos, residents of Morgan’s Grove Heights, both argued that the proposed rezoning would negatively impact the property value of local residents’ homes.
“I think there is a fairness issue here,” John Amos said.
“Predictably through consistent zoning is the only protection for property owners,” he continued.
Ann Spurgas, a resident of a community across the street from the site, asked the commission to consider those most impacted.
“Why would you rezone an area where the neighbors are clearly opposed,” she said.
Patience Wait, a local resident, warned that an approval of the request may perpetuate cynicism among voters, who may feel the commission has acted out of step with community opinion.
“We want our local officials to follow the rules,” she said.
Walt Pelish, county commissioner representing the Shepherdstown district, said that though he supports the proposed use of the site, calling it a potential “economic boom” for Shepherdstown, he could not vote to approve the request based on the expressed concerns by his constituency.
“The prevailing trend of thought… places me in a position where I will have to vote against a zoning change,” he said.
The commission voted to deny the request unanimously by a vote of 5-0.