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Commission considers land development proposal

By Staff | Nov 10, 2017

CHARLES TOWN – Last Thursday the Jefferson County Commission heard a zoning map amendment put forth by Paul Raco on behalf of Christopher Rankin, owner of Christian Caine jewelers and Rankin Properties to potentially develop a vacant site at the corner of Kearneysville Pike and Potomac Farms Drive.

The lot size is 3.56 acres, district nine mapping, parcel 8.1, and Raco stated that the rezoning was determined to be consistent with the Vision Jefferson 2035 comprehensive plan, which was already approved by the County Commission after a series of meetings over a two year period.

“The plan is a new plan,” Raco said. “It’s not like you’re sitting here with a comprehensive plan of rezoning from a 10-year-old plan. (It’s) the comprehensive plan of which you are to turn to for zoning decisions that was just adopted two years ago.”

Raco went on to say that the land in question is included in the Shepherdstown preferred growth area where urban scale development is supposed to be located within Jefferson County.

“This isn’t a new thing that was just put into this plan,” Raco said. “It was included in the 2004 comprehensive plan. Then in 2015, the area shrunk a bit, but still this area was shown in the commercial future land use guide.”

In addition to already being in the comprehensive plan for commercial growth, Raco contended that the property would provide commercial services for a large residential area, promote economic development and is conveniently located on primary transportation routes, as well as to the Clarion.

Commissioners opened up the floor for others to make comments.

Davitt McAteer, local resident living near the proposed building lot spoke out against a commercial lot.

“Despite what the applicant has said, the map amendment will have a negative impact on the neighborhood,” McAteer said. “The neighborhood has been residential since 1742, that we know of. It has been suggested that the commercial development would assist the residential neighborhood. I see no problem presently in terms of services in Shepherdstown. Nor do I see any demand or restraint on commercial development. We have commercial properties that are presently available for lease and sale in (downtown) Shepherdstown.”

Another local resident, Nathaniel (Than) Hitt spoke on behalf of the Shepherdstown Planning Commission and read a letter that Shepherdstown mayor, Jim Auxer signed, highlighting main points of a consensus opinion of opposition to the commercial development.

“The rezoning to general commercial in this case would lack sufficient protections for nearby residents and land owners, and particularly this would be the case if the parcel is sold after a decision to rezone the parcel,” Hitt said.

Other reasons cited included the setting of a poor precedent for general commercial zoning, as well as taking into consideration the location and impact of the plan for the new library and bike path. Concerns for Morgan’s Grove Park are also a factor.

Although strides have been between the Jefferson County and Shepherdstown Planning Commissions, there was a lack of coordination in this particular matter.

“The Corporation of Shepherdstown is deeply concerned with the lasting effects of such an unrestrictive classification of general commercial at this location and we urge the County Commission to consider the reapplication of the conditional use permit,” Hitt said.

Hitt expressed his personal concerns as well as the concerns of several town residents with whom he has spoken.

“The decision before you today is one to rezone a parcel and it’s not proposal to develop a particular project plan. That decision to rezone this area could open the door to many possible development scenarios. For that reason many people are concerned that any promises made for set backs or green space or for parking or any details that are promised are immaterial because the proposal on the table is simply to approve or deny rezoning to general commercial. That decision could have major impacts on the town, and the future of the land if the parcel is sold,” Hitt said.

While no specific plan for the land’s use was put forth, but it was hinted that Rankin could move the Christian Caine jewelry show room to the proposed site due to the fact that the current site, continual applications of conditional use permits must be made.

To weigh-in with comments, email info@jeffersoncountywv.org. Commissioners will accept comments on this matter until Monday and make a final decision at the County Commission meeting on Nov. 16.