BERRYVILLE — Jeremy Camp admires how Clarke County has controlled economic growth while nearby communities have found that goal hard to accomplish.
With a population of only about 14,000, the county remains mostly rural and agricultural. That is despite being surrounded by heavily urbanized Winchester/Frederick County, plus Charles Town/Jefferson County, West Virginia, and Leesburg/Loudoun County, which have seen spillover economic growth from the metropolitan Washington, D.C., area.
“Clarke County is really unique,” said Camp, its new senior planner and zoning administrator, in how it’s preserving the rural character while targeting most development efforts to certain locations. Examples are Berryville, its seat of government and largest town, and the Waterloo commercial district around the intersection of Lord Fairfax Highway (U.S. 340) and John Mosby Highway (U.S. 50) near Boyce.
County officials have “long-term strategies to protect as well as advance the community,” said Camp.
For instance, he said, a conservation easement program lets landowners put restrictions on how their properties can be developed in exchange for payments and various income and estate tax benefits. Sliding-scale zoning practices restrict the density of development on properties based on their acreage amounts.
The result, Camp said, is Clarke County being a place where people want to live instead of one where they have to — or need to — live.
“I’ve heard a lot of people (officials elsewhere) say they’ve wanted to achieve” what Clarke County has, he said, “but they didn’t take strong enough steps to do it.”
After a short stint as a part-time employee, Camp started working full-time for Clarke on Dec. 1. He succeeds former planner and zoning administrator Ryan Fincham, who took a job with the Loudoun County Health Department.
Camp has been in planning and zoning for 20 years. He previously was Front Royal’s planning and zoning director for more than eight years, having lost that job as part of a local government reorganization. One of his colleagues there, who also lost her job, was former tourism and community development director Felicia Hart, who now is Clarke’s director of economic development and tourism.
Prior to his Front Royal position, Camp was community development director in Louisa County.
He and his wife, Kelly, a marriage and family counselor for The Laurel Center, have a son, Braden, who is a George Mason University student. They live in Frederick County.
Camp has both a master’s degree in geography and economics and a bachelor’s degree in international affairs, economics and Spanish from Marshall University. He also has attended Bridgewater College.
Originally from Augusta County, Camp became interested in planning and zoning practices during his youth after he didn’t like how local officials there subdivided property that had been owned by his grandparents.
It seemed there was “no planning at all,” he said. “They just subdivided (in a way) to maximize” the total number of lot spaces.
Ultimately, it left the property looking out of sorts, and he felt like it dishonored his grandparents, he continued.
To a large degree, land development “should be shaped by the will of the people,” said Camp. Planners “should listen to the people and execute what they want.”
“I’m listening” to find out what Clarke residents desire, he said.
An outdoors enthusiast, Camp has long been familiar with the county, frequently visiting to go fishing or canoeing along the Shenandoah River.
He also likes small towns, and Berryville is one of his favorites.
“Everyone here seems to be educated and friendly,” he said, adding that he looks forward to getting to know residents better.