Conservation Groups Appeal County's Decision To Approve Phase One of Development Along New River Gorge

 
PRESS RELEASE
  FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Date:   October 23, 2006
Contact:  

Joy Oakes, NPCA Senior Regional Director, 202.454.3386



Conservation Groups Appeal County's Decision To Approve Phase One of Development Along New River Gorge

Development Threatens Scenic Beauty That Draws One Million Visitors Each Year

Washington, D.C. – The National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) and the Plateau Action Network (PAN) today filed a second appeal against Fayette County’s approval of the first phase of Atlanta-based Land Resources Corporation’s (LRC) “Roaring River” housing development.  The appeal reflects recent analysis that the proposed houses at New River Gorge will be in the park’s viewshed, degrading the scenic beauty that draws more than one million visitors to the park each year.

“Development, and protection of New River Gorge, can coexist if done in a responsible manner,” said Gene Kister, board member of the Plateau Action Network.  “The approval of this development sets a precedent for developers to move forward with future plans that do not protect the park’s scenic beauty.”

In September, the Fayette County Board of Zoning Appeals approved Phase 1 of the subdivision plat for Roaring River.  Recent analysis by the National Park Service (NPS) and the West Virginia University shows that houses built on lots in this plat will impair the scenic beauty of the park.  As many as 80 of the 485 lots in Roaring River Phase I will likely impact the scenic views of New River Gorge. 

In response to an outpouring of public concern at public hearings, the County Commission committed to protecting the Gorge and working to ensure the development would not impair the scenic views of the park.  While county and LRC officials stated both in writing and at public meetings that “no house will be visible from any ground level vantage point in the park,” neither group has provided technical analysis to support this conclusion.

Furthermore, at the hearing in September, when given the opportunity to confirm under oath that the LRC development would not degrade the scenic beauty of New River Gorge, LRC officials could not and would not do so.

“County officials must take responsible actions to protect the scenic beauty of New River Gorge while allowing compatible development,” said Erin Haddix St. John of NPCA.  “The county’s recent approval of new houses along New River Gorge does not preserve and protect this national treasure.”

The county’s approval states that it did not have the ability to remove lots impacting scenic views from the plan, although this ability is clearly defined in the county’s Unified Development Code which states that “reasonable requirements for the preservation of outstanding natural features [including exceptional views] may be specified.”  The protection of scenic views is also referenced in the County’s Comprehensive Plan.  The approval also incorrectly asserts that the removal of any building lots in the plan could possibly require the county to compensate the developer.  This is contrary to a ruling by West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals that “land use regulations will not constitute an impermissible taking of property.”

The next Fayette County Commission meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, October 31.  Supporters are encouraged to attend and participate in the public process to protect the scenic beauty of New River Gorge.

Since 1919, the nonpartisan, nonprofit National Parks Conservation Association has been the leading voice of the American people in protecting and enhancing our National Park System.  NPCA, its 300,000 members, and partners work together to protect the park system and preserve our nation’s natural, historical, and cultural heritage for generations to come.  For more information, visit www.npca.org.

The Plateau Action Network is a nonprofit West Virginia membership organization whose members are concerned about the impacts on the New River Gorge National River of development near the boundaries of the park.

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