What Happened to NorthPort?
The City of Ranson, Jefferson County, WV was a leader in the “Sustainable Cities” movement before Rockwool.
We received over $1 million in planning grants and assistance from three federal agencies to integrate affordable housing, economic development, and transportation to build a livable community. Ranson was one of only two cities, of 1,700 who applied, to get all three grants: DOT, EPA and HUD.
The NorthPort Feasibility Plan that showcased the idea of a multi-modal community featuring 1,000 homes (single family, townhomes and apartments), 10 parks and 800,000 sq ft of office and commercial space.
What happened? Rockwool came to town and secretly negotiated a rezoning application giving them an extra 100 acres of industrial land, a Land Use Restriction Agreement and a Right to First Refusal. Rockwool has removed the legal avenues to build homes at Jefferson Orchards. No homes means no mixed-use community built around mass transit connecting us to Washington, D.C.
And there goes our real-life Sustainable City vision up Rockwool’s 21 story smokestacks.
Never to return.
April 2003: Official ceremony to celebrate the start of the construction of the new 4-lane stretch of Route 9. The Jefferson Orchards property is across from the intersection of W.Va. 9 and Wiltshire Road. The new four-lane W.Va. 9 also will run past Jefferson Orchards.
August 2004: Ranson adopts 2004 Comprehensive Plan with a goal to annex vacant land that would provide for a mix of uses in the neo-traditional development pattern. This development pattern should create a mix in housing styles, which will allow construction of affordable low-cost housing in close proximity to employment. Another goal is find a way to connect Ranson to the MARC Train using Public Transit.
October 2004: Urban Land Institute meets with the city leaders from City of Ranson and City of Charles Town to brainstorm about the future of the area. The idea of encouraging mixed used development and advice on applying for grants/public funding (HUD, TIF, CDBG, etc.)
December 2004: Ranson annexation of Jefferson Orchards was approved. “As part of the Jefferson Orchards annexation, the developers must agree to a number of conditions, including actively pursuing construction of a commuter rail station on the property, working with the Jefferson County Board of Education about possibly setting aside land for a new school.
May 2006: Ranson received $200,000 for hazardous substances assessment and clean-up. Hazardous substances grant funds will be used to conduct Phase II environmental site assessments at two sites and to develop cleanup and reuse plans for at least three sites. Grant funds also will be used to implement community outreach activities.
September 2007: A four-mile (6.4 km) stretch of the upgraded road opened up from Charles Town, through Bardane to Leetown Road in Kearneysville. This provided access to Jefferson Orchards from the current W.Va. 9. Then traffic can be carried to the development by a 28-foot-wide overpass that will cross over the four-lane W.Va. 9
October 2008: This project is not Jefferson Orchards. The RansonGreen and Patriot Outreach Communities USA| RGPO is a 501()3 non profit organization who provide housing and care in a calm and tranquil environment for combat veterans, retired military, personnel, first responders and their families. The plan was to build a 1,700-acre residential & commercial development partly using solar and wind power.
June 2009: U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced the formation of an interagency Partnership for Sustainable Communities (focus on transportation, housing, and environmental policies, programs, and spending).The 3 agencies are working together to support urban, suburban, and rural communities’ efforts to expand housing and transportation choices, protect their air and water, attract economic growth, and provide the type of development residents want.
January 2010: In his State of the Union, the President announced that to build economically competitive, environmentally sustainable, opportunity-rich communities that serve as the backbone for our long-term growth and prosperity; we need strategies that encourage smart development linked to quality public transportation, that bring our communities together. The Partnership for Sustainable Communities by working with HUD, EPA, and DOT will ensure that development, housing, energy, and transportation policy go hand in hand.
October 2010: Ranson received a combined total of $1.4 million in planning grants from the Partnership for Sustainability agencies – DOT, HUD and EPA. An EPA Brownfields Area-Wide Planning Grant will help the community prioritize which contaminated sites should be cleaned up first and will help with reuse plans for the area. EPA’s Sustainable Communities Building Blocks assistance will help the community to review its development codes to make sure they are not stumbling blocks to smart growth. A HUD Challenge Planning Grant will help Ranson develop a smart building code to make the town more compact and walkable.
June 2011: “The Duffields MARC train station project has been identified and includes relocation of the current station closer to Route 9. This project would allow for better regional access and support transit-oriented development.” It was identified as a significant project to pursue: “relocated Duffields train station to Jefferson Orchards development to improve regional access and promote transit-oriented development.” “MARC Train Relocation” and “Duffields Relocation” because the new station had not been named NORTHPORT yet.
Fall of 2011: Jefferson Orchards allows for a Village, Town Center or Transit Oriented Development Community Type. Plan shows a Transit Oriented Development in addition to a single use industrial “District.” The industrial area could be west of a central mixed use Transit Oriented Development centered on the new commuter rail station with dense town center with lower densities at the edge, where existing orchards and agricultural uses are maintained and integrated into the neighborhood.
September 2011: President of Smart Growth America’s Leadership Institute and the Governors’ Institute on Community Design, Governor Parris Glendening delivered the keynote address to kickoff a weeklong planning workshop in Ranson, WV. Gov. Glendening challenges Ranson, WV to plan for the future, to protect resources, and to stimulate economic growth through community design.
September 8 to 14, 2011: In an unprecedented week-long mega-workshop, city officials, residents, business community and a team of international consultants considered ideas and actions to help guide Ranson, Charles Town, and Jefferson County towards a future rich in opportunity for our families and businesses.
Ranson Comprehensive Plan: Adopted
Ranson SmartCode Zoning Ordinance: Adopted
Rezoning of Jefferson Orchards: Adopted
Jefferson Orchards Land Development Plan & Plat: Adopted
January 24, 2013: The development plans for Jefferson Orchards have been approved by Ranson. Jefferson Orchards is planned as a transit-oriented community. MARC, CSX and the West Virginia Rail Authority have approved the concept of moving the Duffields station to the Jefferson Orchards development. These agreements have authorized HEPMPO to spend $100,000 on the Feasibility Study
April 2013: First, SB 103 would require the two states to negotiate a written agreement making the train service accountable to both Maryland and West Virginia taxpayers and riders. Once that task has been accomplished SB 103 would allow CSX, which owns the tracks, to take a W.Va. tax credit in lieu of what it currently charges MARC to run the trains on their tracks in West Virginia.
April 2013: Directs the Secretary of Transportation (DOT) to establish an initiative to promote intercity and urban passenger rail operations and transportation-oriented development by creating rail projects qualified for federal incentives for communities.
December 2013: Replacement of the Duffields station – Ranson is working with the developers of “Northport” (a mixed use community). This proposed stop would also serve Charles Town.All of West Virginia’s MARC stations need investment to bring the stations into compliance with Americans with Disabilities Act. It has been proposed that the Duffields Station be replaced by a full service, fully accessible station at Ranson, West Virginia.
April 2014: The plan recommends that Relocate the current Duffield MARC station to the intersection of Route 9 and First Street in Kearneysville as part of the proposed North Port Station mixed-use development and connecting to the new Route 9 bike path.
January 2015: Baker has completed an existing conditions report on the Jefferson Orchards, Duffields and Brunswick stations, including a couple of different possible locations for the NorthPort Station and possible designs of the station, Mullenax said. The report has been presented to the NorthPort Station task force, which is made up of local, regional and state representatives as well as the owners of Jefferson Orchards.
February 2015: Maintaining MARC services is an important asset to the local economy and quality of life, while reducing commuter traffic on local roads. There is interest in excursion train services that would allow day trips for tourists visiting Jefferson County and would allow residents of the County day trips to the Washington, D.C. Metropolitan Area, including weekends. In 2013, the City of Ranson received approval from the West Virginia Department of Transportation State Rail Authority to replace the existing train stop at Duffields with a new train stop that is slated to be part of a transit oriented development proposed for Jefferson Orchard known as Northport Station.
June 2015: Northport Station is the proposed center-piece of a future smart growth transit-oriented development that will also replace the obsolete Duffields Stop on the MARC commuter rail system. This study performed site selection analysis on the Jefferson Orchards property, performed preliminary environmental screening, determined station design layouts and costs, ridership and traffic impacts and provided an implementation plan.
October 2015: Slonaker believes it’s likely the property will become home to a housing development once the economy improves. With plans in the works to relocate the MARC station now at Duffields closer to W.Va. 9 in Kearneysville, the Jefferson Orchards site would make an ideal place for a commuter to live, Slonaker said. Jefferson County already has lost hundreds of acres of orchard land to housing developments.
December 2015: Jefferson County Develoment Property Report states that the Zoning for Jefferson Orchards is Industrial 95 acres, Mixed Use 293 acres (will rezone for larger users). It says water and sewer will be extended for industrial development. It also states that the gas pipeline is planned for 2015. It is also given to the WV Dept of Commerce.
January 2016: Ranson Mayor Hamill finds out he has terminal cancer and sends a farewell letter to the residents of Ranson. He passes away in February 2016.
Fall 2016: The Rockwool project began in the fall of 2016 when the Jefferson County Development Authority responded to Deloitte Consulting who is a site selection consultant. Deloitte was working on behalf of a confidential client (at the time) that was seeking to identify a community and a site to support a new state-of-the-art heavy manufacturing facility for consumer and industrial projects. Deloitte’s client (Rockwool) was planning to locate an operation that will require up to 150 full time employees and a capital investment of over $140 million, with the potential for future expansion investments and additional labor needs. The Jefferson County Development Authority responded to the proposal with a couple of sites – including the site in Ranson.
January 2017: At the same time Rockwool is meeting with representatives from the City and the JCDA discussing heavy manufacturing at Jefferson Orchards, the 2017 Ranson Residential Market Analysis was completed by Duggal Residential Advisors for the Council and Planning Commission to review.
February 2017: Rockwool announces that their search for a American location is complete
March 2017: On April 18, 2012 the Planning Commission approved the application of the land development plan and plat for the properties Lakeland Place and Lloyd’s Landing, Jefferson Orchards, and Clay Hill Farm. After 5 years of inactivity, the LDPP expires. During this meeting – the LDPP was approved for a 5 year extension
July 7, 2017: Roxul officials were attracted to final city site in large measure for its access to major highways, water and sewer lines, and future abundant gas and electricity resources. With more than 400 acres, the site also offers considerable room for the company to grow its operations in the future
July 10, 2017: Amendments include the addition of the word “stacks” to a list of different parts of a building that do not need to meet building height limits. Planning Commission voted to recommend Approval to the City Council.
July 18, 2017: 1) Ranson City Council Public Hearing on the recommended zoning text amendments as prepared by the Planning Commission. 2) Council approved the execution of a MOU between Rockwool and the City of Ranson with timelines 3) Council approved the excution of the PILOT Agreement (payment in lieu of taxes). 4) Council discussed the conveyane of the Ranson Sewer System to Charles Town.
August 7, 2017: Votes to Recommend Approval to the City Council
September 2017: This rezoning increases the total acreage under Special District-Industrial by an additional 100 acres, taking away one the two Villages from the 2012 plan
October 2017: Rockwool and the Owners of Jefferson Orchard records a Land Use Restriction Agreement prohibiting any type of residential dwelling on the remaining land in Jefferson Orchard that is not zoned Industrial (212 acres of land planned for Transit Oriented Development). With the recording of this agreement – no home, church, homeless shelter, hospice center, nursing home or rehab center is permitted to reside in Jefferson Orchard, officially destroying the chance of having a Transit Oriented Neighborhood as intended for the future of NorthPort Station.
October 3, 2017: PILOT stands for “Payment in Lieu of Taxes.” Typically PILOT agreements appear to be haphazard, secretive, and calculated in an ad-hoc manner. What’s more, payments in lieu of taxes typically generate relatively little revenue, as a share of overall municipal budgets, and often are not a reliable long-term source of funds. Local governments justify tax abatements by arguing that abated taxes are not lost revenue, since the money would not have been in the city coffers had the development not occurred. While this may be true in some cases, it is all too common for property tax abatements to be given to companies that do not really need them, depriving the city of income it would have had without the subsidy. This is money that would otherwise have gone to fund city services. It is risky granting lengthy abatements, since the city is gambling away up to 30 years of tax revenue on the assumption that without the subsidy, no company would have located there. (See the Incentives Trap for more info).
October 18, 2017: The approval of the horizontal site plan (footprint of building) will be used for the building grading permit application.
February 1, 2018: MARC has been operating trains in West Virginia since the 1970s under a series of intergovernmental agreements between the states. WV and MD have been in negotiations since October when the 5 year agreement between the 2 states ended. MTA has tried over the years, including when the agreement was last negotiated 6 years ago, to get WV to accept responsibility for funding its share of the program.In 2012, West Virginia’s Legislature appropriated $300,000 a year to fund the service into the state, but it was vetoed by then-Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin, WV Secretary of Transportation is quoted “We are looking at enhancing ridership, and we’ll probably have to partner with local folks, counties and cities. We probably will be asking for monetary support.”
March 8, 2018: The City’s conservation efforts must go further than just conserving farmland. Charles Town can take action to ensure that its soil, land, water, wilderness, and air are protected for future generations. This requires the City to partner with various organizations, state/federal agencies, and its residents.
April 11, 2018: In addition to vehicle replacements, there are several other capital projects planned for the HEPMPO region, including: Northport Station: a new MARC transit station and EPTA bus transfer center on the Jefferson Orchards property abutting Route 9 and the CSX railroad line. The station is proposed to replace the current Duffields Station. Cost: $12.6 to $16.3 million
April 28, 2018: The future of MARC is uncertain. Maryland, which operates the MARC system, threatened to end West Virginia service in Summer of 2018, unless WV paid $3.2 million to continue it (the cost to provide service). MTA CEO Kevin Quinn says WV has never subsidized the service. In May – the Governor negotiated a $1.5 million compromise to keep service one more year. Rather than sign another 5-year memorandum of understanding, they moved to a month-to-month deal. WV Del. Riley Moore says West Virginia needs to find a way to boost ridership. “When you take the totality of all the riders from WV that ride the train, including the ones that drive to Brunswick, it’s over 800 passengers,” Moore said. “I am absolutely committed to finding a long-term solution.”
May 2018: The approval of the vertical site plan (full engineering of the facility) will be used for the building permit application.
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