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Zoning Summary

The following summary of existing patterns of zoning regulations is intended to provide basic insight into the regulatory tools that are currently affecting growth and development in the planning area. Given the division of responsibility between the town and county to regulate land use in the planning area, understanding the differences between the different regulatory mechanisms also helps to understand the limitations or benefits of the regulatory environment that exists in each area of responsibility.

Shepherdstown Zoning Summary

Shepherdstown utilizes six base zoning districts to implement its land use and development regulations. The districts and their purpose statements are reprinted below. Much of the property within the corporate limits of Shepherdstown is not subject to one of these six base zoning districts. The lands owned by Shepherd University are exempt from local zoning regulation (designated as SU on the zoning map), and the town has designated other publicly owned or used property, including property owned or used by philanthropic organizations, as “Public Use” (PUB).

R-1: Low Density Residential District

The R-1 (low density) District is intended to preserve and encourage the development of single family residential neighborhoods free from land usage which might adversely affect such development.

R-2: Medium Density Residential District

The R-2 (medium density) District is intended to provide an attractive, pleasant living environment at a sufficient density to maintain a high standard of physical maintenance and the optimum utilization of land appropriate for residential use.

RC: Residential Commercial District

The purpose of the Residential Commercial Zone is to reinforce the economic base of the town by preserving the central business uses unique to Shepherdstown. Secondly, the Residential Commercial Zone is intended to complement the Historic District to more effectively preserve the historic environmental setting of the town.

C: Commercial District

The Commercial District is intended to further assure the economic base of the town by providing a heavy commercial service center for the town. It is intended that stores and other facilities be grouped in a convenient manner with particular attention being paid to adequate circulation of pedestrians and vehicles, accessibility from both the central community and the area, off-street parking and loading, and protection of adjoining areas of other use.

P-R: Park-Residential District

The Park-Residential District is to support the existing pattern of single family dwellings on large lots and to provide protection for and transition to the Conservation Open Space District.

COS: Conservation Open Space District

The Conservation Open Space District is intended to provide permanent open space for its natural beauty and recreational value. It is also intended to preserve natural resources, prevent erosion, pollution, silting, and safeguard the health, safety and welfare of persons and property by limiting development on excessive slopes, on flood plains, on poorly drained lands, or on other areas where protection against natural dangers to life and property, or the lack of such protection, would prove costly to members of the community.

Existing Zoning Discussion

The R-1, Low Density Residential District, is intended to primarily regulate the use and development of single family residential dwellings. With just over 98 acres subject to this district, it accounts for slightly more than 50% of the total area within the town’s corporate limits. The geographic extent of this district covers the vast majority of the southern two-thirds of the corporate limits, with the notable exceptions of the core of the downtown area along the two blocks of German Street between Church Street and Princess Street, and the commercially zoned area at the southern end of Princess Street near Washington Street.

The R-2, Medium Density Residential District, differs from the R-1 district in that it makes additional accommodations for the development of multi-family dwellings at higher densities than in the R-1 district, including lower minimum lot sizes for duplexes. The minimum lot size in this district for single family dwellings, however, is identical to the requirements found in the R-1 district. Apparently having been primarily used to accommodate individually established multi-family developments, this district is applied only sparsely throughout the community, accounting for only 5.2 acres of the town, which is less than 3% of the total area of the community. Areas that have been zoned in this manner include two small locations on West German Street just west of Duke Street, properties on either side of South Duke Street at itsintersection with Washington Street and on the southern end of Mill Street on the east side of the railroad at the edge of town. The RC, or Residential Commercial District, is the town’s de facto “downtown” zoning district. This district allows a wide range of uses that are intended to be compatible with the character of downtown Shepherdstown, including making accommodations for residential uses on the upper floors of commercial buildings. With 7.1 acres zoned in this manner, the RC district covers slightly less than 4% of the land in the corporate limits. The geographic extent of this district’s application in town is very compact. Focused primarily on the two blocks of German Street between Church Street and Princess Street, the district also extends south along Princess Street from German Street to the area around the intersection with New Street.

The “general” Commercial District, whose intent is to provide a more broadly accommodating area for commercial uses that may not be appropriate in the core of town, is applied to slightly more than 4 acres of land, accounting for just over 2% of the land within the corporate limits. Like the RC District, the Commercial District has been applied to a fairly compact and contiguous set of properties. This area is located along both sides of South Princess Street from New Street to the southern border of the town, including a small area on the east side of the railroad on Washington Street.

Shepherdstown Zoning Districts
This map depicts the current distribution of zoning districts throughout the corporate limits of Shepherdstown.
  •  R-1
  •  R-2
  •  Residential/Commercial
  •  Commercial
  •  Public
  •  Conservation
  •  Park Residential
  •  Shepherd University

The Park-Residential District is primarily used as a transitional district between higher intensity zones and the very low intensity Conservation Open Space District. With minimum lot sizes of 22,000 square feet, this district allows residential development at a density of around 2 dwelling units per acre, as well as very limited nonresidential uses, focused primarily on parks, agricultural uses and public facilities. With just over 12 acres zoned P-R, this district covers approximately 6% of the land within the corporate limits. The district has been applied in three distinct locations, all in close proximity to the Potomac River. From east to west, these areas include properties along the northern end of Mill Street, two properties on the west side of Princess Street adjacent to the campus of Shepherd University, and the northwestern corner of the town limits on the west side of North Duke Street just before the bridge across the Potomac.

The Conservation Open Space District is primarily intended to apply to lands that have little development value, high conservation value, or are otherwise intended to serve a public purpose. This district covers almost 21 acres of land, or around 11% of the land area within the corporate limits. The district is applied to areas along the river and the railroad, including the majority of the land in the northeastern corner of the corporate limits from Mill Street east across the railroad and ending at eastern edge of town. The COS district is also applied to land along the east side of Princess Street from the river access at the foot of the street south to Rocky Street and along portions of the railroad near its intersection with German Street.
Though not officially a zoning district, property owned by Shepherd University is designated as such on the town’s zoning map. Not being subject to regulation by the town, no local development standards apply, but nevertheless the scope and extent of the campus is important to know to understand the full context of the way that the university and the town interact from a land use and development perspective. Covering slightly more than 44 acres of land within the corporate limits, the portion of the university within the town accounts for almost 23% of the land area of the town. The entire east campus of the university is within the corporate limits, extending from High Street on the south and Princess Street on the east, the main campus extends north and west to Duke Street and the Potomac River. The portion of the west campus inside of town includes land located along West German Street and Duke Street and extends northwestward from there along a narrow strip of land that was annexed into the town to include the population of the residence halls on the west campus with the town’s overall population.

Property used for a public purpose, such as town facilities and the property of community service organizations, is given special status in the town’s zoning ordinance and designated as Public (PUB on the zoning map). Properties designated as this category revert to the predominant adjacent district whenever public use of the property ceases. Although occupying only 2.4 acres of land in the town (around 1% of the town’s overall area), properties designated as Public occupy prominent locations in the community. The most concentrated area of properties designated as Public is in the vicinity of the intersection of German Street and King Street, where properties such as town hall, the library, McMurran Hall and the War Memorial building are given this designation. It has also been applied to the US Post Office property on Washington Street and the railroad depot on East High Street.

Table 12 - Shepherdstown Zoning Summary
Zoning District Acres Percent of Total
R-1 98.2 50.6%
R-2 5.2 2.7%
RC 7.1 3.7%
C 4.3 2.2%
P-R 12.1 6.2%
COS 20.7 10.7%
PUB* 2.4 1.2%
SU* 44.2 22.8%

*Special Purpose Districts

Growth Management Boundary Zoning Summary

Land outside of Shepherdstown in the town’s designated Growth Management Boundary is subject to the land use and development regulations of Jefferson County. In this part of the county, three zoning districts are currently utilized to regulate the use and development of property. The districts and their purpose statement are shown below:

R: Rural District

The purpose of this district is to provide a location for low density single family residential development in conjunction with providing continued farming activities. This district is generally not intended to be served with public water or sewer facilities, although in situations where the Development Review System is utilized, it may be. A primary function of the low density residential development permitted within this section is to preserve the rural character of the County and the agricultural community.

RG: Residential Growth District

The Residential Growth District is intended to provide for a variety of residential uses and densities which can be supported by central or public water and sewer and adequate roadways and services. This district encourages commercial growth provided that such growth is deemed to be appropriate and compatible by the Development Review System.

RLIC: Residential – Light Industrial – Commercial District

The purpose of this district is to guide high intensity growth into the designated growth area.

Growth Management Boundary Zoning Districts
This map depicts the current distri-bution of the zoning districts used by Jefferson County to regulate de-velopment on land located within Shepherdstown’s Growth Manage-ment Boundary, but outside of the town’s corporate limits.
  •  R-LI-C
  •  Residential Growth
  •  Rural

Existing Zoning Discussion

The Rural District is by far the most widely applied of the three districts utilized by Jefferson County in the GMB. Covering nearly 9,000 acres (14 square miles), this district is applied to nearly 80% of the land area of the GMB. Generally intended to accommodate agricultural uses, this district also allows for residential development at a density of approximately 1 dwelling unit per acre. The Rural District covers the southern, southeastern, western and northern portions of the GMB.

The Rural Growth District has been applied to approximately 2,350 acres of land (nearly 4 square miles) in the GMB, accounting for around 20% of the area of the GMB zoned by Jefferson County. In contrast to the Rural District, the Rural Growth district is intended to accommodate development of a suburban to urban nature, with permitted development density of between 1 and 4 dwelling units per acre, with higher densities permitted where public utilities are available to serve more intensive development. This district covers a wide swath of land in the central portion of the GMB, extending along both sides of the Route 45 corridor from the Berkeley County line to the Shepherdstown corporate limits on the east. The district also wraps around the southern margins of the town, extending from Route 45 south and east to incorporate all of the land between Route 45 and Shepherdstown Pike, generally following a line formed by Potomac Farms Drive. The County’s designated Residential Growth District also extends northward around the north side of Shepherdstown from the Route 45 corridor and generally follows the Shepherd Grade corridor, ending in the vicinity of Howard Farm Road.

Portions of the Route 45 corridor have been designated for much higher intensity land use and development with the application of the RLIC District along selected portions of the corridor. Covering approximately 140 acres, this district applies to only around 1% of the unincorporated portion of the GMB. As the name and purpose of the district indicate, much more intensive land uses are allowed in this area than in the Residential Growth or Rural Districts. Permitted uses include a wide variety of commercial and light industrial uses, as well as residential development at densities similar to the Residential Growth District. Currently applied primarily to developed properties, this district has been used to accommodate growth along the Route 45 corridor. Areas where the district have been applied are almost exclusively adjacent to Route 45 between Potomac Farms Drive and the corporate limits of Shepherdstown. The largest of these areas is the Maddex Farm development on the north side of Route 45. The district has also been applied to several areas on the south side of Route 45, including an area immediately adjacent to the town limits and two smaller areas around the intersection of Route 45 and Potomac Farms Drive.

Growth Management Boundary Development Potential

The following assessment is intended to help the reader understand the potential implications of future growth in the GMB, as currently regulated by Jefferson County. This assessment attempts to measure the potential for single family residential growth in the GMB by determining the development potential of undeveloped land in the Rural and Residential Growth Districts. The RLIC district was not included due to the relatively small area covered by the district and degree of development that currently exists on properties zoned in that manner.

Table 13 - Growth Management Boundary Zoning Summary
Zoning District Acres Percent of Total
Rural 8.999 78.3%
Residential Growth 2.355 20.5%
RLIC 139 1.2%

The initial step in the assessment merged the undeveloped land uses in the GMB with properties that are zoned Rural or Residential Growth by Jefferson County. As the following table demonstrates, around 5,800 acres, or 42% of the Rural District, is comprised of land classified as vacant, while nearly 1,000 acres, or nearly 65%, of the Residential Growth District is vacant.

Based upon the first step in the assessment, the residential development density standards of each district were applied to the available vacant land in the district. To account for typical development requirements for roads, buffers, required open space, and similar requirements, the developable acreage was reduced to 80% of the total vacant acreage prior to calculating the maximum development potential.

Table 14 - Undeveloped Land by District
Zoning District Acres Percent of Total
Rural 5,783 42.3%
Residential Growth 997 64.3%

The results of the assessment, shown in the table below, indicate that at the permitted density of 1 dwelling unit per acre, vacant land within the Rural District could produce a total of over 4,600 dwelling units. Unlike the Rural District, the Residential Growth District provides a sliding scale of permitted development densities based on access to public utilities. The base RG density is 1 dwelling unit per acre with no access to water or sewer. This increases to 2 dwelling units per acre with either water or sewer, and 4 dwelling units per acre with water and sewer. With no utilities, vacant RG land could produce around 800 dwelling units. With limited utilities, that doubles to around 1,600 units and then doubles again to almost 4,000 units if full utilities are available. This does not include the potential for multi-family development in the RG District, which is permitted at up to 22 dwelling units per acre, or nearly 6 times the permitted density for single family development. It should be noted that the existence of water and sewer infrastructure in much of the area designated by the County as “Residential Growth” has the potential to facilitate growth at the higher range of permitted density.

While it can be reasonably assumed that the maximum scenarios will not realistically occur in each instance where development id proposed, this does establish what those maximums could be based on current county policies. If only the 4 largest vacant parcels in the RG district are developed at the maximum single family density permitted, the combined 265 acres in these 4 parcels could generate over 1,000 new dwelling units. This is not intended to say that growth would have a negative impact on the community or dissuade the responsible development of land. It is meant merely to demonstrate the amount of growth that could occur in the GMB without much, if any, input from the town if these areas remain outside of the town’s jurisdiction.

Table 15 - Development Potential for Undeveloped Properties in Growth Management Boundary
District Acres 80% Rule Full Utilities Water or Sewer No Utilities
Rural 5,783 4,626     4,626
Residential Growth 997 798 3,192 1,596 798