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New bill could change farmland protection (from developers); growth slows...

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Agriculture adapts to growth

Farmers are finding it hard to compete with the Washington D.C. growth, but are willing to innovate and sell to the markets -- not to wholesalers, to help stem the exodus of farmers in the region.

Article information: "Agriculture adapts to growth, By NAOMI SMOOT / Journal Staff Writer, 3/22/2007"

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Farm protection changes proposed

Key --

1. Numerous policy changes could occur to the Berkeley County Farmland Protection Board.

2. These include caps on easement prices, changes in the point system the agency uses to determine which properties to purchase, and so on.

2a. The group is considering a new $6,500/acre cap for easements.

2b. Changes could provide additional points to the ranking system for properties that cost less than $4,500/acre. Active farmland would also receive more points.

3. These changes are needed, from the article, to make the money go further. The board is funded from transfer fees -- a one-time tax that is charged when the property changes hands. The group benefited from the housing boom and the revenues were great -- but now that the market has slowed, the funding levels have dropped.

3a. Complicating matters is that more West Virginia counties now have Farmland Protection Boards that create more competition for limited federal monies. It has increased from a handful of counties to 15.

Article information: "Farm protection changes proposed, By NAOMI SMOOT, Journal [Martinsburg], 4/7/2007"

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Building boom starts to level off

Key --

1. During the first three months of 2006, the Berkley county Planning Commission approved the construction of 815 single-family homes and 218 townhomes.

1a. During the same time in 2007, it approved 658 single-family homes and only 47 townhomes.

2. During the March 19, 2007 meeting, no projects were considered for preliminary plat review.

2a. During the March 6, 2006 meeting, there were four such projects.

3. The Berkeley County

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Historic property threatened

Notes --

1. Historic Edward Rumsey House on Tuscarora Pike was constructed in 1796 by the brother of James Rumsey, the inventor of the steamboat.

2. A mill on the 8.5-acre land was constructed. The construction of the mill's dam led many to believe that water "ran up hill" on the property -- proclaimed on postcards and such.

3. The house and property were purchased by Whitmore Homes, a residential development company.

4. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1980. It is also part of Berkeley County's Tuscarora Historic District.

Article information: "Historic property threatened, By NAOMI SMOOT, Journal [Martinsburg], 4/25/2007"

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In reply to the post above...

Developer: Edward Rumsey House to stay

Notes --

1. There are no "intermediate plans" to demolish the historic house.

2. Whitmore Homes purchased the house and surrounding land -- totaling 180 acres. The new subdivision will be built on 160 acres, and will ignore the house and the 20 acres that surround it.

2a. The subdivision will contain 140 single-family houses -- with ground breaking in early 2008. The average price will range from $300,000 to $500,000.

3. The house and the surrounding 20 acres have been for sale for over a year -- and the house needs a total restoration due to its foundation being in bad shape.

Article information: "Developer: Edward Rumsey House to stay, By NAOMI SMOOT, Journal [Martinsburg], 4/26/2007"

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Town strategizes to preserve character

By LAUREN HOUGH, The Journal [Martinsburg], June 14, 2007

The town of Shepherdstown has realized that growth is inevitable, but that it can also be smart, with a mix of compact, high-density homes and buildings that compliment -- rather than replicate -- what already exists. The visition is a possibility through the use of SmartCode, a planning strategy that emphasizes community involvement, mixed-use buildings, and interactive neighborhoods.

Members of the public were invited to learn more about SmartCode during a day-long educational presentation. The 'unified land development ordinance for planning and urban design' was unveiled in a town-wide information meeting open to the public. It emphasizes community vision, local character, conservation of open lands, transit options, and walkable and mixed-use neighborhoods. Shepherdstown, a community of 250, is already "smart." For instance, next to single family homes are student rentals, behind which are businesses and affordable housing. It allows a mixture of a ages and socioeconomic levels. Residents can also walk anywhere.

SmartCode enforcement strives to maintain such mixtures (above), while preventing suburban sprawl by building higher-density structures that can serve commercial and residential clients, while encouraging the protection of green space and the town's historic character.

The town is hoping to see SmartCode development on 19 acres of land recently annexed into the town on the east. The developer has already agreed to build using SmartCode guidelines.

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