Land Use Committee holds its first meeting
Thirteen members of the Morgan County Land Use Advisory Committee attended the group's first meeting Thursday, March 6 at the Cacapon State Park lodge. Two guest speakers and six members of the public were also in attendance.
The committee was formed to investigate land use issues and report findings and recommendations back to the Morgan County Commission and Morgan County Planning Commission.
Glen Stotler, President of
the Morgan County Commission and committee chairman, opened the meeting by
thanking members for their service.
Stotler explained the Morgan County Commission had taken zoning off the table in order to have committee members on both sides of the zoning issue talk about land use without debating zoning.
Stotler went on to say that the committee may find that some land use issues may not be able to be resolved without zoning, but that would be a discussion for a later committee or phase two of this committee.
I would like everyone to create their own list of issues that Morgan County needs to address, Stotler told the committee.
I am not here promoting any particular point of view, I am just here to explore the options, Stotler said.
Guest speakers scheduled
Stotler announced that he had scheduled guest speakers for the next two meetings.
Professor Joyce McConnell of West Virginia University will speak to the committee at the March 27 meeting. McConnell is a law professor specializing in property law.
Berkeley Springs Attorney Richard Gay is scheduled to speak at the April 2 meeting.
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Both McConnell and Gay will speak to the committee about West Virginia laws concerning land use.
Both meetings are open to the public. The March 27 meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. in the Homestead Restaurant at the Berkeley Springs Best Western.
The April 2 meeting is expected to be held at Cacapon State Park at 6 p.m.
Guest speaker and County Planner Alma Gorse gave the committee a briefing on the county's existing land use regulations and ordinances.
Gorse's presentation included a handout listing nine regulations and ordinances already in effect. These included residential, commercial and industrial improvement locations permits, Stormwater and floodplain regulations, subdivision regulations, outdoor advertising regulations, and salvage yard, exotic entertainment, ATV and excessive residential noise ordinances.
Water issues surface
During the discussion of commercial and industrial improvement location permits, Eric Pritchard said there wasn't enough water in the industrial park to meet fire suppression requirements.
Developers who might want to build large buildings at the site would have to build large and very expensive water storage tanks to meet the fire suppression requirements.
Stotler said developers are getting around the requirement by building several small buildings instead of one large building. He cited the proposed shopping mall now being planned for the industrial park as an example.
Charlie Biggs asked if lakes could be used to meet requirements. Bob Ford said lakes were fine but had to pass flow tests.
Going to lakes is the answer because water may become more expensive than oil, Carl Cowgill said.
The issue of the county not having a building inspector was raised.
Stotler said the county commission had asked county builders to come up with recommendations for county building inspectors, but they never got back to the commission with any ideas.
Ford said that builders don't want to sit around and wait days and sometime weeks for a building inspector to arrive on site. He noted problems with the building inspector systems in Berkeley and Jefferson counties.
Commissioner Tommy Swaim, who is not on the committee but attended the meeting, said inspection does not mean quality. A house can be built to code and still be of poor quality, he said.
Ford said the best way to insure quality was to hire a quality builder.
Guest speaker and Planning Commission President Jack Soronen told the committee that much of Morgan County was already under land use restrictions.
He pointed out that many communities have homeowner's agreements regulating land use and that land use restrictions existed for state parks and flood plains.
Soronen said the county's Comprehensive Plan was an important document that committee members need to become familiar with.
Soronen said the committee should work on problem identification and definitions of issues on land use and then propose remedies.