(Featured image, above) The application submitted by Jefferson Orchards, Inc. (JOI) requests a change in zoning for a 242-acre parcel (outlined in blue) to a combination of residential growth and light industrial uses. Like much of the surrounding area, this parcel is currently zoned as rural (green shading) according to the 2015 Future Land Use map of Jefferson County. The area in white at the lower right is location of the Rockwool factory in the City of Ranson.
On April 15, Jefferson Orchards Inc. (JOI), applied to the Jefferson County Commission to change the zoning designation for the old Miller Orchard and a second, adjacent property located to the northeast of Kearneysville. The two parcels (240+ acres) are currently in the rural zone. The JOI application requests that the Commission amend the zoning map to allow residential growth and light industrial use on the parcels. Per the ordinance revision process in WV state law, the County Commission referred the application to the Planning Commission for review and scheduled a public hearing and possible vote on the application (See bottom of page for key dates)
JOI plans to develop approximately 196 acres of the land for residential housing, consisting of a mix of single family homes and townhouses. Documents submitted with the application indicate that JOI also envisions extending Northport Drive from the Rockwool factory property through the residential development to create at least two connecting routes for through traffic from Route 115 (adjacent to Route 9) to Route 480 (Kearneysville Pike). The southern portion of the JOI property (approximately 44 acres) abuts the Rockwool factory property and is proposed for light industrial use. This parcel was identified in a 2017 land use agreement between Rockwool and JOI as potential additional property to be acquired by the Rockwool factory owner (which also obtained a right of first refusal on the parcel).
The recent expansion of utilities, specifically water, sewer, and natural gas, to the adjacent Rockwool factory property is mentioned as a consideration for why rezoning the proposed development area would be consistent with the County’s Comprehensive Plan. New development by JOI in the rezoned parcels would facilitate additional expansion of utilities into the Kearneysville area, currently designated as a Preferred Growth Area (PGA) in the Comprehensive Plan. The County staff are currently evaluating these considerations in advance of the scheduled Planning Commission meeting.
What We Heard…
The Observer heard several common questions from Jefferson County residents about the proposed rezoning of the old Miller Orchard purchased by Jefferson Orchards Inc. (JOI) in December 2017:
- What specifically are the permissible uses in a “light industrial” zone?
- What would prevent a future change in zoning to allow light industrial or other non-residential use on the entire 242 acres?
- Is the 44-acre portion proposed for light industrial zoning the same land included in the 2017 land use restriction and right-of-first refusal agreements between Roxul and JOI?
- Could the tax relief programs that apply to the current Rockwool factory apply to any adjacent property acquired by Roxul?
- Is a 9-acre buffer between light industrial and high-density residential use sufficient (in discussing the 2017 land use restriction agreement, Roxul expressed concern that residential construction is not compatible near its industrial plant, given the truck traffic, nighttime lighting, and noise)?
- Is the WVDOH Novak Drive extension project the I-81 connection referenced in the zoning amendment application?
- What are the traffic increases expected from connecting Northport Drive to Route 480 and is WVDOH planning improvements to the adjacent roads (Routes 9, 115 or 480)?
- Does the current school system planning for elementary and middle school construction take into account the number of children who could be added from this development?
Deadlines for Public Comment & Questions
On May 11, the Jefferson County Planning Commission is scheduled to review the application to rezone 242 acres in Kearneysville for compatibility with the County Comprehensive Plan. The meeting begins at 7 pm. This is not a public hearing and earlier this year the Planning Commission voted to remove public comment from its regular meeting agendas. Public comments received by 5 pm on May 4 (Tuesday) can be included as “non-actionable correspondence” in the meeting packet provided to the Commissioners. Comments may be sent by mail to PO Box 716, Charles Town WV 25414 or by email to PlanningDepartment@JeffersonCountyWV.org.
On June 3, the Jefferson County Commission is scheduled to hold a public hearing to accept comments and take action (immediately following the hearing) on the application to rezone 242 acres in Kearneysville. The hearing is scheduled for 1:30 pm. County residents who cannot attend the hearing (to be held by video conference) may send comments by mail to PO Box 250, Charles Town WV 25414 or by email to Info@JeffersonCountyWV.org. Comments must be received by 5 pm on May 27 (Thursday) to be included in the meeting packet sent to the Commissioners.