In discussing the impending Dec. 8 decision before the County Commission to accept the Planning Commission recommendation to rezone property adjacent to Morgan’s Grove Park from “Rural” to “Commercial-Industrial,” I am struck by how often citizens are reluctant to publicly express their concerns. They are intimidated by the overhanging legacy of that bitterly contested property which resulted in nearly a decade of spurious and costly legal actions. After four adverse Federal court decisions and appeals including an appeal rejection by the Supreme Court, the threatening legacy still persists.
We need to dispel those fears and deal forthrightly with this current excessive and inappropriate zoning request. It is unfortunate that the Planning Commission did not take this fully into consideration. The Gene Henry legal challenges have been resolutely refuted. Members of our Shepherdstown community who have considerable interest in preserving the current residential and recreational use of this property in its rural setting, and particularly nearby property owners have every right to speak up. There are legitimate community interests that they be heard, particularly in this case by our elected representatives on the County Commission.
No Constitutional right is absolute. Even the First Amendment is limited by the coexisting rights of others. But your tempered, thoughtful expression of views that speak to the issues under discussion are certainly relevant, fully defensible, and absolutely essential. Our County Commissioners have a difficult task of balancing the competing interests of all our citizens. It is an unfortunate fact that business promoters and real estate developers must make much more frequent use of our political administrative processes in order to pursue their financial interests than the average citizen. They know the system well and are in a position to exploit it. So speak up, in writing in order that your views are documented and become a formal part of the information that the County Commission will use to make their decision. They cannot operate in a vacuum.
We should not allow ourselves to be intimidated. FDR’s eloquent statement still rings true: “All we have to fear is fear itself.”