New zoning ordinance has many changes
On Thursday, the Jefferson County commissioners sit down once again to review the Proposed Zoning Ordinance Text Amendment Related to New Commercial and Industrial Zoning Categories. The discussion will start at approximately 6:30 p.m. in the Jefferson County Meeting Room in the basement of the Charles Town Library. There has been ongoing discussions on these text changes since early 2012 with the proposed changes being postponed until after the adoption of the Comprehensive Plan. Since these text changes have been postponed there has been no additional public hearings on the subject, but a new county commissioner has been voted into office. The amendments to the zoning ordinance are extensive with the introduction of seven new zoning categories. Recommended additional zoning categories are: Neighborhood Commercial (NC), General Commercial (GC), Highway Commercial (HC), Light Industrial (LI), Major Industrial (MI), Planned Neighborhood Development (PND), Office/Commercial Mixed Use (OC).
The proposed location of these new categories are in the Growth Area as shown in the most current Comprehensive Plan. With the inclusion of a future land use map in the 2014 Comprehensive Plan, the location of future growth is to be designated on the future land use map and related text. As concerned citizens of Jefferson County, it is imperative that we attend this meeting to show our support for the county commissioners as they go through the proposed new zoning categories changes line-by-line to ensure that they are resident-friendly for the citizens of Jefferson County. After going through the proposed new categories, the commissioners are planning on voting to enact these new categories immediately or wait on making the changes until after the 2014 Comprehensive Plan is completed and voted on later this year.
Although this meeting is not a public hearing we are going to be in attendance to show our support for the work our elected officials are doing. Please join us at the meeting to show the commissioners that residents of Jefferson County want commercial enterprises to be an appropriate distance from established neighborhoods and in appropriate locations within the county. Additionally, by our attendance at this meeting we will be showing our elected officials that we care and that we vote and are holding them accountable for their decisions.
Ted and Janis Schiltz
Hilltop would improve tax base
As a business owner in Harpers Ferry, I have watched the deterioration of the Historic Hilltop House Hotel. I’ve also watched our small town struggle to keep up with our crumbling infrastructure. The Town of Harpers Ferry imposes a 2 percent tax on contracting services. This could mean as much as $400,000 in additional town revenue directly from hotel construction contracts before the hotel even opens for business. This income alone would go a long way in helping the town begin to address some of our dire needs including water and sewer system upgrades, undergrounding of utilities, street and sidewalk improvements.
Although it is sad that an agreement was not made during the 2009 discussions with SWaN Investments, I am grateful that the Town Council and the Planning and Zoning Commission have utilized the last several years working hard to bring our ordinances into compliance with West Virginia State Code. I believe the proposed zoning and related ordinance amendments related to the hotel overlay provide a foundation on which the town can better protect its own interests while sending a clear signal to SWaN that they are ready to be a reasonable partner in any further discussions.
I am convinced that everyone that loves Harpers Ferry wants what they feel is best for the town. It is time for us to come together and work with the current owners of the Hilltop House property to find the best fit for us all.
Tenfold Fair Trade Collection
Why is Obama silent?
This is my letter to the White House:
Dear President Obama,
I am deeply concerned that a week into the water crisis in West Virginia, you have not made one statement about the chemical spill. I am a West Virginia resident, and although I am not in one of the nine counties affected, I am feeling hopeless about the future of the United States of America. Clean water is a basic necessity and if we cannot provide the basic needs for life, human or otherwise, how do we expect to thrive as a nation?
The media is reporting that the water ban is being lifted, but I find this news concerning since I have heard through unofficial channels within the EPA that the water is not safe. To back this up, I am finding many posts on social media showing obviously contaminated water in the areas where the ban has been lifted.
I am worried for the people affected by this crisis, so today I made a donation of supplies like hand sanitizer, paper plates, and body wipes, but I feel there is little I can do otherwise. These people need the ability to bathe, to cook, to drink water — all of which they can no longer do thanks to this crisis. What will your administration do to aid those in need? What will you do to prevent this atrocity from happening again?
Charity Beth Long
Zoning use is ‘ticking bomb’
A new zoning category, Major Industrial, being considered by the Jefferson County Commission on Thursday at 6:30 p.m. in the lower level of the Charles Town Library, will allow “enterprises which pose significant risks due to the involvement of … hazardous materials.” The storage of chemicals like those that contaminated the drinking water of 300,000 West Virginians in and around Charleston is permitted as a conditional use.
There is no guidance as to where this zone is appropriate other than “heavy industrial uses cannot be located less than 1,000 feet from a property with a dwelling, school or church….” How about public water intakes? And how is 1,000 feet going to protect the community from a spill?
I would suggest a new name for the proposed Major Industrial zone: Environmental Ticking Bomb.
— Lyn Widmywer is a member of the Jefferson County Commission
After Elk spill, demand action
The chemical spill into the Elk River warns all of us that we should not sit idly by, believing our drinking water supplies are protected from contaminants. The League of Women Voters of West Virginia urges everyone to become informed about their drinking water sources.
The Safe Drinking Water Act includes a Source Water Assessment and Protection Program. Water companies are supposed to develop a SWAP program that includes potential contaminant threats to drinking water sources and assess whether it is likely that the source water can become contaminated. Communities can follow up with management plans that will protect their source waters and contingency plans on how to respond to accidents.
The Elk River accident points out several major problems – the lack of inspections of the Freedom Industries facility, Freedom’s tardiness in informing the water company of the leak, West Virginia American Water Company’s lack of knowledge of the contaminant’s potential harm, and the lack of a community plan to protect the drinking water sources.
Unfortunately many of the SWAP programs are out-of-date all around West Virginia. In most cases a community plan has not been prepared to prevent drinking water disasters. It is difficult or impossible to find water companies’ SWAP programs on the Internet. The Elk River chemical spill should trigger all of us to demand an update of our SWAP programs as well as community planning for the protection of our drinking water sources.
More information about the SWAP program can be accessed at the West Virginia Bureau for Public Health Office of Environmental Health Services Environmental Engineering Division online at wvdhhr.org/oehs/eed/swap/.
The League of Women Voters is a nonpartisan political organization that works to inform the public of important governmental issues and encourages citizens to participate in determining public policy.
Nancy Novak, president
League of Women Voters of West Virginia
To save Hilltop, tear it down
Personally, the only way to get the Hilltop House back open for business is to tear the old one down and rebuild it. It’s been sitting for maybe 10 years or more and rotting in areas that can’t be seen.