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W.Va. council cannot revoke massage parlor

February 20, 1997

By DAVE McMILLION

Staff Writer, Martinsburg

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Martinsburg city officials said Thursday night they cannot overrule the Board of Zoning Board Appeals' decision to allow a controversial massage therapy business on Winchester Avenue.

Any appeal of the decision would have to be filed in Berkeley County Circuit Court, said City Attorney J. Oakley Seibert.

Under state laws, agencies like the Zoning Board of Appeals cannot be controlled by councils and are to be independent bodies, Seibert said.

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"I don't see what else this council can do," said City Coucilman George Karos.

An opponent of Colleen Mooney-Aunkst's massage therapy practice at 667 Winchester Ave. said she will consider filing an appeal to the court.

"I think the whole thing should be started over," said Marjorie Moulton, who lives several doors up from the business.

Moulton and Winchester Avenue resident Everett Fogle said they oppose the massage business for several reasons, including the way the approval process was conducted.

Fogle said a zoning appeal sign explaining what the new business would be was supposed to be staked outside the home within 10 feet of the sidewalk.

The sign was instead posted about 30 feet away on the porch of the business. Fogle said no one opposed the business because no one knew about it.

Phil Bowers, chairman of the Board of Zoning Appeals, said he was told that all the requirements regarding the zoning change for the new business had been met. He referred questions about the sign to the city building inspector's office.

A notice was placed in a local newspaper explaining Mooney-Aunkst's request, but it did not say the business would be a massage therapist office.

Clark Johnson, a member of the Board of Zoning Appeals, said he did not believe notices advertising zoning changes should be more explanatory.

Bowers and Johnson said they believed it was acceptable to allow Mooney-Aunkst to have her business because there are several medical-related businesses in the area.

Moulton said she is concerned about children in the neighborhood being exposed to a business like Mooney-Aunkst's.

But several people who spoke in favor of Mooney-Aunkst said she runs a professional business.

Mooney-Aunkst read several letters from businesses and local medical professionals who praised her for her work. "This isn't anything that anyone should be ashamed of," Mooney-Aunkst said.

"There is nothing hidden and nothing wrong with this. All it is stress reduction," said Louis Young, a local businessman and one of Mooney-Aunkst's clients.

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