July 27, 2015: In early July, The Department of Interior released the final study documents of the National Park Service’s (NPS) Special Resource Study (SRS) of the Shepherdstown Battlefield. The Battle of Shepherdstown occurred on September 19 and 20, 1862 involving approximately 8,000 to 10,000 troops and resulted in 677 casualties.
The SRS concluded that the 510 acre site of the 1862 Battle of Shepherdstown would be preferably included within the Antietam National Battlefield Park. The SRS studied various options and possible boundary adjustments including an assessment of including the Shepherdstown site within the Harpers Ferry National Historical Park. “As such, each of these boundary adjustment options is included in the study alternatives, with Antietam National Battlefield being the preferable option due to its historical and geographical connections to the Battle of Shepherdstown.”
The 1862 Maryland Campaign of the Army of Northern Virginia included battles of South ountain, Harpers Ferry, Antietam and ending in a battle near Shepherdstown in what is now West Virginia. The SRS concluded that: “The inclusion of the Shepherdstown battlefield into Antietam National Battlefield would provide visitors the opportunity to have an expanded understanding of the events directly following the Battle of Antietam and the culmination of the Maryland Campaign. The SRS further concludes it “would propose to adjust the existing boundary of Antietam National Battlefield to include areas of the Shepherdstown battlefield that contribute to an understanding of the significance of the Battle of Antietam and the Maryland Campaign.”
In early 2012, the NPS held two scoping meetings seeking public comments regarding the proposed SRS. “In total, approximately 136 people attended the scoping meetings. … Public response received by the National Park Service was predominately supportive of the study and enthusiastic concerning the interpretation and protection of the Shepherdstown battlefield.” The preliminary SRS was released in August 2014 and a public review period was conducted for two months. During this period, 334 individuals corresponded with the NPS. Two public meetings were held in September attended by approximately 93 individuals. “Commenters expressed overwhelming support for” … the management option that the…“Antietam National Boundary Adjustment as the most effective and efficient way to preserve the Shepherdstown battlefield.”
“If Congress were to authorize a legislative boundary that would encompass the Shepherdstown battlefield as part of … Antietam National Battlefield, there would be no change to existing landownership…” “Any change to land ownership or use would be in the future as the National Park Service is able to acquire battlefield land from willing sellers and donors.”
The effort to involve the Federal government in helping to save and preserve the site of the Battle of Shepherdstown has been the result of the work of the Shepherdstown Battlefield Preservation Association Inc (SBPA) and its individual members. SBPA is a non-profit corporation, organized in 2004 dedicated to saving and preserving the core of the site of the Battle of Shepherdstown. Approximately 105 acres have been saved through conservation easements and land purchases. Also, approximately $1.1 million has been raised to save battlefield land through grants and membership contributions during the last ten years. If you would like to help save more of the battlefield and learn more about SBPA, please go to: www.battleofshepherdstown.org.
On February 26, 2015, the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals (WVSCA) ruled that the Jefferson County Planning Commission (PC), in two instances, violated the West Virginia Open Governmental proceedings Act (OGPA) when the PC granted extensions to the developer of Far Away Farm (FAF). The WVSCA rulings reverse prior rulings by the Circuit Court. The WVSCA rulings were the result of a petition filed by Gary Capriotti, Edward Dunleavy, Edward Moore and the Shepherdstown Battlefield Preservation Association Inc.
In July 2011, the PC approved a secret agreement with the developer of FAF granting extensions of the Conditional Use Permit (CUP) and the Community Impact Statement (CIS) to build 152 houses on the farm. The agenda for that meeting did not identify the PC/FAF agreement as a subject of consideration. The agenda item under which the agreement was discussed was titled: “Reports from Legal Counsel and legal advice.” The WVSCA ruled that: “Because the agenda notice did not adequately inform the public of the specific items to be considered at the Planning Commission’s July 26, 2011, meeting, we find that the Planning Commission violated W. Va. Code 6-9A-3 and reverse the circuit court’s contrary ruling.”
Also, the WVSCA cited W. Va. Code 6-9A-4(b)(11) that “if the public agency has approved or considered a settlement in closed session, and the terms of the settlement allow disclosure, the terms of that settlement shall be reported by the public agency and entered into its minutes within a reasonable time after the settlement is concluded.” While the Court stated that the PC “referenced the settlement at its meeting of October 11, 2011, and indicated that it would attach the final settlement to the minutes of that meeting, it has yet do so.” “Accordingly, we find that the Planning Commission has violated the reporting requirements set forth in W.Va. Code 6-9A-4(b)(11).”
The WVSCA remanded the case back to the Circuit Court to provide a remedy for the violations.