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Washington's Road to Outward Growth

"Because I can use my phone and I have a cup holder and I have a comfortable seat, people are willing to tolerate longer commutes," said Chris Miller, president of the Piedmont Environmental Council. "You can continue your life while driving in ways that you couldn't five years ago. That's a big factor."

The Expansion Continues

Developers already are showing an interest in building even farther west than Charles Town, particularly as Jefferson County has begun to look askance at new home projects.

Huntfield resident Eugene Marino, right, arrives home after carpooling with David and Holly Robinson. Marino's trip to Arlington takes more than an hour. (Ricky Carioti -- The Washington Post)

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Jefferson County recently created a $7,000-per-home impact fee and began looking for ways to protect rural land, and as a result, developers have begun looking to neighboring Berkeley County, planners said.

In 2002, planners in Berkeley County were asked to process plans for 3,000 home lots; last year, that number tripled.

"It's been fairly dramatic," said Sue Ann Morgan, the county's planning director. "There is a shortage of buildable land in the region, and we are absolutely more attractive to home buyers and developers. We have no impact fees. We have no zoning. It looks like we're next."

The development boom left Jefferson County struggling to find a way to pay for a new high school. The influx of housing led to a sewer moratorium. And the crunch has poisoned relationships between Huntfield's newcomers and the rest of Charles Town.

"We're the target," said one neighbor, who moved to Huntfield in May with her husband, and declined to be identified by name because she works in the criminal justice system. "I hear people say, 'If it weren't for Huntfield, there wouldn't be this traffic,' 'If it weren't for Huntfield, we wouldn't have the sewer problem.' For months, I've been very cautious about telling people where I live."

The influx also has resulted in sharply divergent views on the future of Route 9, a scenic two-lane byway that brings Jefferson County commuters to job centers in Loudoun County and the rest of the Washington metropolis. Because of the onslaught of Washington commuters, who can back up traffic for miles, West Virginia's highway builders are planning to widen the road to four lanes. They've already started clearing the way for a new bridge over the Shenandoah River.

Loudoun officials, on the other hand, have resisted proposals to widen the roadway on their side. Much of Hillsboro, a historic town, would have to be demolished if the road were widened there.

Loudoun Supervisor Sarah R. Kurtz (D-Catoctin) declares the town "besieged" and resists growing pressure to widen the roadway. Asked how she would respond to the West Virginians who will be bottlenecked if she succeeds in keeping Route 9 two lanes, Kurtz responded with a question.

"Do I demolish a historical town for your commute? You have a choice to live anywhere you want. If this is what you chose, this traffic in Hillsboro is what you'll encounter."

Huntfield residents counter that Loudoun's building restrictions have pushed people -- including many of the county's own employees -- to live in West Virginia and commute.

"It's Loudoun County's police, their firefighters and their teachers who live out here," Schmitt said. "They have to get to work."

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