“Urban zoning” mistaken
The Morgan County Commissioners formed a citizen advisory committee to aid the planning commission in preparing zoning regulations for land uses in geographic areas and try to complete this process for a November voter referendum.
Unfortunately, the Planning Commission president and the zoning consultant he recommended are imposing “Urbanized Zoning” (previously used by the consultant in Jefferson County, W.Va. and Frederick County, Md.). The committee has been working to modify the consultant’s model.
Every conceivable land use is listed, related to columns of classifications: low-density residential, high-density residential, commercial, light industry and heavy industry; and intersections indicate prescribed permitting criteria. Simplification is conflicting and time consuming.
When the consultant insists “the high-density way is the best way,” the leadership agrees. A committee member, who is a promoter of a pending large-scale resort, agrees. Several other committee members tend to agree. Thusly, a group-think majority is tailoring zoning to favor urbanization.
This is not what county residents envisioned. It is not simple. It is not rural. It is not what County Commission president Brenda Hutchinson directed the committee to prepare.
Several committee members are striving to change this process and fulfill goals in the Comprehensive Plans, such as “Keep the rural character of Morgan County” and “Protect Morgan County’s water, especially the historic Berkeley Springs.”
What is going on here? Shouldn’t planners prepare a simplified rural zoning ordinance that adheres to county goals? How else can officials regulate big developments and collect impact fees upfront to fund public service expansion and stop shifting capital costs onto taxpayers.
Small-scale rural establishments, such as family farms, rural builders, resident homeowners (including those with building sites for children or parents), mom/pop businesses, home businesses, etc., should not be burdened with zoning board reviews and impact fees.
Zoning should consider the scale, impact and placement of big developments on communities and sensitive areas of the environment. And, zoning should regulate big development according to public-interest, and stop subsidizing and catering to special-interests.
I urge citizens to carefully review the “Draft Zoning Study,” as this study must specify requirements for the Zoning Ordinance. Challenge the permitting of big developments in Berkeley Springs’ recharge area. Question conflicts-of-interests. Insist that zoning serve public interests in a simple, rural and sensible manner. Address comments to the planning commission before their next meeting. Our future is at stake.
Member of the Land Use Advisory Committee