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County denies road closures

By Staff | Feb 17, 2012

The Jefferson County Commission last Thursday denied the petition by William and Jo Ann Knode to close three paper streets near Shepherdstown.

The petition filed by the Knodes, who own the properties adjacent to the streets, was made to the county several weeks ago. Following the proposed closing, the county received dozens of letters protesting the move. The commission postponed making their decision on the matter for several weeks and were then divided in that decision.

The request was to close to public use Old Prospect Street, part of Fairmont Street and Princess Street Extended as well as an unnamed alley. The Knodes own all of the property located behind the Secrist Building which now houses the Shepherdstown School of Dance.

The Knodes had hoped to have the unused streets closed as they are constructing a home behind the Secrist Building. The family indicated that the streets were not used by the public and that the Knodes had paid to pave Princess Street Extended.

Mr. Knode testified that the roads had never been maintained by either the state or the county.

Many opposing the move to close the streets focused on the Princess Street Extended portion of the request.

Mercedes Prohaska, who operates the dance studio, explained that parents use the street to drop children at the studio. If the roadway were closed, she said, children would be required to cross Washington Street or South Princess Street, both very busy roadways. The issue of safety played paramount in the argument to deny the road closures.

Commissioner Frances Morgan made the motion to deny the request because she felt that the commission had not been presented with satisfactory information to warrant closing the streets.

“The commission must be satisfied that the public won’t be burdened,” Morgan said. “And I do not believe that proof has been given.”

Of opposing belief were Commissioners Patsy Noland and Walt Pellish, who saw the property rights of the Knodes to be a reason to close the streets.

“It’s his property,” Noland said. “If he wants to enjoy privacy he has that right. He has paid for paving. I see nothing in Code that would prevent us from closing the road.”

When it came time to vote on the issue, safety won out as Morgan, Dale Manuel and Lyn Widmyer voted to deny the Knode’s petition.

Prohaska, who attended each of the sessions of the commission during which any discussion was held on the issue, said that safety is paramount at such a busy intersection.

“This was a good decision for the public as a whole,” she said.