By: Jennifer Britt
The Parsons Advocate
The planning commission has decided to place the Subdivision and Land Development Ordinance (SALDO) on a six month pause. The president of the planning commission, Tim McLean, explained that there were more pressing issues in the county at this time. All other members of the commission were in agreement and after William “Bill” Shahan made the motion to pause the ordinance for six months the motion passed with a five to one vote. Robin McClintock was the only nah vote for the motion.
McLean explained, “Our last meeting was in June, in Davis, and this planning commission’s primary purpose of that meeting was for this planning commission to finally accept the final draft and submit to the county commission our subdivision ordinance. I have personally been working on the ordinance for the last 16 months and some have been working on it for over 13 years. It has been quite a process and we have taken it from 60 pages down to the 28-page current edition that is on the county website.
During the time we have worked on it, we have invested a lot for our community. Over the last 14 to 16 months, we have listened to a lot of input from the community and a lot of input from the county commissioners. A lot of back and forth agreeing and disagreeing.
We have learned how to write it in legal format thanks to John Cooper and pro-bono free work. He was able to help us keep the document legal.”
McLean went on to discuss the reasoning behind his suggestion to pause the ordinance for the time being by saying, “During the latter part of June this dark cloud start floating over Tucker County, and it consumed the dialog among all of us, the media, the county commissioners, and it is called EMS, and that dark cloud is still out there.
I am a fairly well-read person and the first of July I was trying to put together an agenda for the July meeting and I was basically having trouble putting words on the page. In my opinion and what I believe is the opinion of the volunteers on this planning commission is we have done our job as far as the subdivision ordinance goes.”
McLean went on to say that with all the other issues the county commission was facing at this time and after having a phone call with Commissioner Mike Rosenau, he felt like this was the time to put aside the ordinance and focus on more important issues like EMS.
McLean then suggested to the other planning commission members and said, “I would like to recommend we pause the document. It is on the website. It is finished. There is nothing in there that we should be ashamed of, it is a pretty good document. We can pull it again at a better time when the county does not have bigger issues to handle. We as a planning commission can move onto another idea.”
Shahan said, “I was thinking the same thing. I have been approached by several people while working at Kidwell’s and the majority of the people say the same thing that they see what we are trying to do, and they fully understand it. They really have nothing against the document. They really do not want this, and my opinion is we make the recommendation, and it ought to represent the people of the county. And if the people of the county do not want it at this time, then I am in agreement that we should table it until a later date when we can come back and revisit it. Maybe they would have more time to think about it and understand it, and if they want it then fine and if not then it is what it is.”
McLean’s plan to move onto another idea concerns the outdated zoning ordinance for Canaan Valley. McClintock asked McLean to explain that in detail to the other members of the planning commission and then said, “I would also like to hear from the county commissioners why they can not consider more than one issue at a time.” to which Rosenau answered, “Robin, I do not think that is a discussion for this meeting.”
McClintock then asked to go into executive session. When asked for the reason why she wanted to go into executive session McClintock said, “So we can talk about this. I want clarification.” Rosenau informed McClintock that it was not legal to go into executive meetings without a legitimate reason such as personnel issues or selling of land and clarification was not a legal reason.
McLean suggested the planning commission turn their focus now to the zoning ordinance for Canaan Valley that is dated from 1998. McLean would like the members of the planning committee to research the zoning ordinance and he would be working with Cooper to find out if the footprint of the ordinance could be extended to Route 93 by Thomas and Davis.
The idea is to make the ordinance enforceable for new subdivisions or industrial/commercial companies as well giving the people the option to vote on whether they would except the refreshed ordinance. Since Canaan is in the same voting district as Thomas and Davis, residents in all three areas would vote on it. Unlike the SALDO that would just need the approval or disapproval of the county commissioners. The zoning ordinance would not be enforceable in Thomas or Davis and would only include the people that it effects.
McClintock explained that if the existing zoning ordinance could not legally be extended to include the extra areas, then a start from scratch report would have to be conducted by the planning commission. Last time the report was done it took two years to complete. McClintock asked, “Which is easier? Getting a zoning ordinance or explaining the document that we have already. There is a lot of time that is going to go by and there is a lot of development just chomping at the bit. I think zoning is more restrictive and more protective of the county, but if it takes two years to get zoning done what kind of damage can be done in two years.”
To explain why the zoning ordinance should include the extended areas towards Davis and Thomas McLean said, “The big part of the initial growth of Tucker County, and I say initial, is coming from that direction with the new highway.”
The next planning commission meeting will be held September 12, 2022, at 1 p.m. at the Davis Town Hall.