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Developer says rezoning unfair

February 02, 1999|By BRYN MICKLE

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - A Maryland developer is worried the Martinsburg City Council is playing politics with his right to make money.

Four City Council members voted Monday to hold a special meeting Thursday afternoon to grant final approval for a rezoning of the 35.18-acre Fairground Heights subdivision that would prevent the construction of new multi-family dwellings.

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The vote originally was set for the regularly scheduled City Council meeting on Feb. 11 but four councilmen agreed to move up the date of the vote.

Councilman Glenville Twigg said the council was scheduled to discuss some budget issues Thursday so he decided it would be a good time to also make the zoning change.

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"I wanted to get this done as quick as possible," said Twigg.

Twigg lives in Fairground Heights and has long been a proponent of changing the zoning laws in the subdivision. He said he will vote in favor of the change.

Frederick, Md., developer James Rizzo, however, said he found it "very interesting" that commissioners decided to move up the date of the vote.

Rizzo owns six lots across the street from Twigg's home on Fair Street in Fairground Heights and said he was all set to build six single-family duplexes on the 1 1/2-acre property.

Last Thursday, however, his permits had been revoked due to a technicality with storm water drainage.

While he said he does not question any of the City Planning Department's actions with the permit issue, Rizzo does want to know why the City Council decided to speed up the rezoning process.

The new zoning would allow Rizzo to build only five single-family duplexes and put him at an economic disadvantage, said Rizzo.

Rizzo said he showed up at the Jan. 21 City Council meeting to protest the zoning change but was told he could not speak. Instead, said Rizzo, he was told he could voice his objections at the council's Feb. 11 meeting.

"Now I find out at 4 p.m. (Tuesday) the meeting's been changed," he said.

Twigg said there was nothing out of the ordinary about changing the meeting dates and said a special session to approve a zoning change was "not unusual."

Twigg said he could not remember the last time the council scheduled a special meeting for a similar matter.

City Councilman Oden Barrett said Twigg called him Monday to sign the special meeting order but said there was nothing out of the ordinary in Twigg's request.

"I don't know why he wanted to vote on it Thursday, but this is normal policy," said Barrett.

Councilmen Merle Butts and Max Parkinson, who also signed the order, could not be reached for comment.

Rizzo said he plans to attend Thursday's special session at Martinsburg City Hall but would not say if he will contest the zoning change in court.

"All I'll say is the way the proceedings have been done do not show me an element of fairness," he said.

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