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Second suit filed over townhouses

March 30, 1999|By BRYN MICKLE

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - A Shepherdstown man has filed a second federal lawsuit against Jefferson County, claiming the county blocked a townhouse development that would have placed low-income housing near Morgan Grove Park.

Aubrey E. Henry is seeking $6.5 million in damages. He alleges that Jefferson County illegally blocked his attempts to develop his 13.69-acre Town Run property along U.S. 480 west of Shepherdstown, according to papers filed in U.S. District Court in Martinsburg.

This is the second federal lawsuit Henry has filed against Jefferson County over his attempts to develop the Town Run property.

Judge Craig W. Broadwater heard arguments on the first lawsuit in January but has yet to make a decision on the 1996 case, said county attorney Mike Lorensen.

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"I was surprised (Henry) filed the second lawsuit. I thought he would just amend the first complaint," said Lorensen.

Henry referred all questions to his attorney, John Yoder of Harpers Ferry, W.Va., who could not be reached for comment Monday.

Henry claims that after his restaurant on the Town Run property burned down in 1993, the county told him he could not rebuild it and should instead submit plans for a housing development, according to the latest federal lawsuit.

The county rejected plans for 76 townhouses that would have been priced between $70,000 to $80,000 to attract low- to moderate-income families after residents voiced opposition at a series of public hearings in 1994.

The county's board of zoning appeals upheld the planning commission decision in August 1994 and Henry filed a lawsuit in Jefferson County Circuit Court. A county Circuit Court judge ruled in favor of the county, but the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals reversed that decision in 1997 and sent the case back to the county's board of zoning appeals.

The zoning appeals board in January upheld its orginal decision and denied Henry's request. That case is now pending in Circuit Court.

Henry claims the court battles over the issue have harmed his ability to develop the land and alleges the construction of the Clarion Hotel and Conference Center, built on land adjacent to Henry's Town Run property, will prevent him from getting sewer hookups for his land.

The latest lawsuit seeks a total of $1.5 million in damages from the state of West Virginia, Jefferson County, the county's board of zoning appeals and past and current members of the county's planning and zoning commission.

The suit also asks for $5 million in damages from Jefferson County Director of Planning and Zoning Paul J. Raco, current planning commission members Scott Coyle, Sam Donley, Ernie Benner and Lyle Campbell Tabb, as well as former planning commission members H. Richard Flaherty, Paul Griger, Jim Knode and Gilbert Page Wright.

No hearing date has been set for the case.

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