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Shepherdstown council looks at annexation policy

By Staff | Mar 13, 2015

On Tuesday evening, the Shepherdstown Town Council discussed the possibility of altering the town’s annexation policy to include consideration for historic properties.

Shepherdstown’s Annexation Policy, adopted in March 2008, sets forth the purpose for annexation, annexation request evaluation criteria and annexation procedure.

Under this policy, individuals or groups may request that property outside of the town limits become annexed into the Corporation of Shepherdstown and receive town services, such as street maintenance and garbage removal.

According to the policy document, annexation requests should: comply with planning and zoning requirements, support economic growth, provide affordable housing and/or preserve natural and cultural resources.

Council member Karene Motivans said there is currently no section in the policy that addresses how annexation guidelines apply to historic properties.

“There’s a gap between the comprehensive plan and the annexation policy, and I would propose a step in between those,” she said. “(Historic structures) are only mentioned in passing in the evaluation criteria, but it’s important because that’s one of the reasons we annex.”

Council member Jim Ford said that historic properties, if annexed into the town proper, may need a specific set of guidelines for the property owner to follow in order to modify the building.

“If I applied for annexation, I would want to see (these guidelines for historic properties) on there,” said council member David Rosen. “I would want to know what rules I’d have to follow and what that means. We should spell out what the benefits of being annexed into the historic district are, if there are any. I don’t want people to have to deal with that unknown.”

The annexation process, as laid out in the Annexation Policy, involves a meeting between the applicant and the town council, followed by the application itself. Once the application is submitted, the town clerk will post a public notice, after which a public hearing and readings of the annexation ordinance take place.

Mayor Jim Auxer said the historic property evaluation guidelines should be discussed at the first meeting between the applicant and the town council.

“If we have a plan (to address historic properties in annexation), the town council can be proactive. It’s the town council’s responsibility to do this,” Auxer said.

Auxer proposed the town council hold a work session regarding the annexation policy.