Land Use and Community Character Goal 4
The Town will expand its corporate limits to include both adjacent developed areas as well as lands that have significant potential for future development and to meet open space goals.
4.1 Collaborative Growth Management Planning
STRATEGY: Work collaboratively with Jefferson County to develop future land use and zoning designations that are compatible with the town’s growth plans within the adopted Growth Management Boundary.
JUSTIFICATION: Consistency between the town and the county in the location and type of development that will occur in the area covered by the town’s growth management boundary is critical to fostering rational development patterns around Shepherdstown. By aligning the county’s growth plans, as expressed through its application of zoning, with the town’s plans for utility improvements, annexation and transportation improvements, there will be fewer potential land use conflicts and growth can be directed more accurately towards areas that the town can provide municipal services to.
4.2 Establish a Municipal Growth Area
STRATEGY: Establish a locally designated Municipal Growth Area within the adopted Growth Management Boundary that identifies the long range (20 years) potential for the growth of the town and extension of municipal services outside of the current corporate limits as annexation and development activity occurs.
JUSTIFICATION: The act of establishing a definitive long range growth boundary for municipal services will help to better align development expectations with the town’s ability and desires to extend services through annexation or improvements to the utility system. The definition of the extent of future municipal service growth will also help to better inform Jefferson County’s plans for the unincorporated areas around Shepherdstown and allow for the proper application of zoning districts in the County’s jurisdiction.
4.3 Review Annexation Policies
STRATEGY: Review the Town’s Annexation Policy to ensure that it allows maximum flexibility in the decision-making process for the extension of the corporate limits within the established Growth Management Boundary.
JUSTIFICATION: Current annexation polices provide a robust framework within which annexation petitions are reviewed and decided upon. These qualitative and quantitative factors give decision makers and applicants for annexation a good and well-reasoned guide for the evaluation of potential annexations. The adoption of the Growth Management Boundary, however, expands the potential for annexation within this defined area. In order to prepare for future annexations, it is critical to ensure that there are not any unintended obstacles to otherwise beneficial annexations. An example of this is the current prohibition on noncontiguous annexations in the policy. While contiguity is generally agreed to be a desired quality of a potential municipal expansion, consideration should be given to qualifying this, among other policies, to account for situations in which the direct or quantitative benefit of such an annexation may not be readily identifiable, but which would otherwise provide other benefits to the community, particularly as it relates to the ability of the town to exercise its development review authority on properties within the town’s corporate limits.
4.4 Annexation of Split Jurisdiction Properties
STRATEGY: Work collaboratively with the owners of properties which are currently divided by the corporate limits to seek voluntary petitions for annexation so that those businesses and residents can enjoy the full range of services offered by the town.
JUSTIFICATION: A number of properties lying along the border of the town’s corporate limits are split between the jurisdiction of the town and Jefferson County. Bringing these properties fully within the corporate limits through annexation will help to clarify responsibility for the provision of services and the application of development regulations.
4.5 Develop and Implement Strategic Annexation Plan
STRATEGY: Develop a strategic annexation plan to identify developed commercial and residential areas that are adjacent or in close proximity to the corporate limits of the Town that may benefit from annexation into Shepherdstown. The plan should include analyses of the costs and benefits of annexation for each identified area, timelines for the initiation of the annexation process for each area, the most appropriate annexation method for each area and plans for the provision of municipal services to newly annexed areas, including methods of financing such services. Following the adoption of the plan, the town should immediately being the necessary steps to implement the plan, and revise as necessary to reflect changing circumstances over the life of the plan.
With a population of approximately 1,700 residents and a land area of around 240 acres, the corporate limits of Shepherdstown contain only a fraction of the population and property that is within the urbanized area of “greater Shepherdstown”, which has grown up around and along the roads leading into town. While many, if not most, of the residents and businesses within the urbanized area identify themselves as residents of “Shepherdstown” they share neither in the responsibilities of residing within the town, nor do they enjoy the full range of benefits that are available within the corporate limits, though they do impact the town’s services given the interconnected nature of the community.
Expanding the corporate limits of the town in a deliberate and well planned manner will allow for the gradual inclusion of these areas in the town, thereby expanding both the responsibilities and benefits that go along with residence within the town. Expansion of the corporate limits will leverage greater access to state and federal resources, increase the influence of the town as it advocates for its needs and build economies of scale that will lead to greater efficiency in the provision of services, both operationally and from a cost perspective. The growth of the corporate limits will also allow the town to exercise its land use regulatory authority in these areas whose future development is critical to maintaining the character of the town.
The result of a town’s failure to expand its geographic limits, especially as growth occurs around it, is usually stagnation (in terms of both its fiscal posture and quality of life) and often decline. Failure to capitalize on the momentum that has been generated by the adoption of the Growth Management Boundary and Comprehensive Plan update will most likely produce similar results for Shepherdstown as the share of the population in the area that is fully vested in the governing of the community continues to decline as growth occurs at the town’s doorstep.
4.6 Develop and Implement a Public Outreach Strategy for Annexation
STRATEGY: Develop and implement a public outreach strategy for communicating with residents of Shepherdstown and in potential annexation areas about the potential costs and benefits of the expansion of the corporate limits.
JUSTIFICATION: Since annexation will be primarily dependent on the assent of the residents and property owners in the areas targeted for annexation (and potentially the residents of the town, depending on the particular method of annexation), it will be critical for the town to provide timely, robust, factual and positive information to those who will ultimately have the final say on annexation. The development and dissemination of a compelling message that is fully transparent, in terms of both the benefits and responsibilities that are associated with annexation, will help the town to drive the storyline of annexation and ensure that accurate and factual information is available to the community.
4.7 Work to Strengthen and Improve Annexation Laws
STRATEGY: Work with the West Virginia Municipal League and directly with other municipal governments to lobby for the strengthening and modernization of annexation laws in favor of sound and rational municipal growth strategies.
JUSTIFICATION: As a community that is interested in pursuing annexation in the future, Shepherdstown could lend its voice to efforts by other municipal governments in the state to modernize annexation laws. As a representative of the interests of local governments, the West Virginia Municipal League is the most appropriate vehicle for working toward more progressive annexation laws.