New River Development Stalled (WV)

posted February 24, 2005
by Kevin Colburn

article photo 1

Just four hours before the hearing that would have decided whether or not 2200 homes would be built on and near the rim of the New River Gorge, the developer withdrew their application. 

In a letter, the developer stated that "After careful consideration, the applicant has determined it will be necessary to revise its application ... to more accurately reflect the scope and nature of the Roaring River project in Fayette County."  The development company continued that it "remains confident that the Roaring River project can comply with the provisions of Fayette County's comprehensive plan and development code, and it intends to present to the planning commission and county commission a proper plan to address the complex issues involved with this proposed development."

The application was presumably withdrawn because of mounting opposition from members of the public who showed up in large numbers to the preliminary hearing and wrote letters, and the National Park Service which created visual depictions of what the development would look like from the Park and shared these images with County Officials.  

 

The development company has literally gone back to the drawing board, and has indicated that they will eliminate their previous plans to build within the boundaries of the National Park.  Instead they will enter into negotiations to sell that 613 acre tract of land to the Park.  The company intends to submit a modified application for their proposed development in the coming weeks that is more sensitive to public concerns.  The NPS remains concerned that even the new proposal could have significant visual and ecological impacts on the New River Gorge and its visitors.  

 

American Whitewater will continue to follow this issue and will post updates as needed.  We would like to thank the paddlers that showed up to the preliminary hearing and that wrote letters.  Great Job!  

 

 

American Whitewater sent the following letter in opposition of the development:

 

February 11, 2005

 

Fayette County Planning Commission

Fayette County Courthouse

P. O. Box 307

Fayetteville, WV   25840

 

RE: Roaring River Development

 

To Whom it May Concern,

             American Whitewater is a national nonprofit organization whose mission is to protect and restore our nation's whitewater rivers, while enhancing opportunities to enjoy them safely.  We have roughly 7,000 members and 80,000 affiliate members that we regularly communicate with through our website (www.americanwhitewater.org) and our magazine.  American Whitewater represents primarily noncommercial whitewater paddlers, many of whom regularly paddle the New River Gorge.  In addition, American Whitewater organizes the annual Gauley River Festival, which draws 3,000 to 6,000 people to the New and Gauley River area each fall. 

            American Whitewater strongly opposes the proposal by Land Resource Company to construct a housing development called the Roaring River Development overlooking the New River Gorge, for which LRC is asking that about 4,300 acres of land owned by Rush Creek Land Company be changed in zoning from rural residential and land conservation to planned unit development.  We ask that you deny LRC's requested zoning change in order to protect the ecological, aesthetic, recreational, and economic values of the New River Gorge.

            The New River Gorge is a special place for the paddling community, as well as many other Americans.  Along with the high quality whitewater, the undisturbed natural scenery of the Gorge is a breathtaking and an essential part of the paddling experience in the Gorge.  It is the scenery that many paddlers travel to the New River to experience.  Paddlers do a lot more than just paddle in Fayette County too; they live there, they hike to overlooks, they paddle New River tributaries like Mann's Creek, they rock climb, and they spend money in your communities.  Housing development near the gorge rim or on ridges near the gorge will severely impact the New River Gorge experience - the character of this special place will be tarnished forever. 

            Lots of counties have housing developments - but Fayette County has an absolutely unique asset.  The New River Gorge was estimated by Whisman[1] et al in 1995 to generate $33,924,000 per year in total economic output, and to have supported over 800 jobs.  The New River Gorge is truly a renewable resource for Fayette County that requires relatively little investment while yielding huge returns.  However, if the qualities of the Gorge that attract people are damaged - fewer people will come, and those that do will not stay as long, or be as likely to return.  The New River Gorge is one of the last places in the eastern US that people can go to not see houses, which makes it both invaluable and very valuable.  Allowing houses to be built near the Gorge can only hurt Fayette County's long term health.

            Paddlers have a deep connection with the rivers they paddle and the New is certainly no exception.  We are drawn to the New and have striven be good visitors and good citizens of Fayette County.  We ask only that the river be protected.  The National Park Service and the County have both have been very supportive.  This is one instance where the local community needs to take a strong pro-river stand.  We feel that Fayette County is different from much of the surrounding area, and we hope that difference will lead to a wise decision on this very important issue.  The impacts of this decision will last our lifetimes and our children's.  Allowing this development to move forward would irreparably damage the New River Gorge. 

            In addition to aesthetic, recreational, and economic impacts, we also have ecological concerns.  Specifically we are concerned with project induced water quality impacts.  We base this concern on the proximity of the development to the gorge rim and the sandstone geology that quickly delivers run-off to the river below.  Increased sediment from exposed soil, fertilizer and pesticides from the 2200 lawns, oily water from the roads and traffic, and possibly even sewage may all be expected to impact the New River - at the river entry point for the Gorge.  

            We respectfully ask that you deny the LRC the ability to build a development that would be partially within the boundaries of a National Park and in sight of treasured wild places.  We base this request on anticipated significant impacts to the New River Gorge, to the Paddling Community, and to Fayette County.  Fayette County's scenery is your greatest asset and a natural resource treasured by paddlers - and we hope we can count on you to protect it.    

 

Sincerely,

 

Kevin Colburn

Eastern Conservation and Access Director

American Whitewater



[1] View the study at:  http://www.americanwhitewater.org/toolkit/Economics/WV.Econ.Study.pdf

 

 

 

 

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