Martinsburg man appeals permit denial

March 16, 2000|By ANDREW SCHOTZ

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Joseph Allen admits he shouldn't have put an extension on his West King Street garage before getting a permit.

But since a friend was available to help him work, and the addition didn't appear to be controversial, he went ahead and built it anyway, he said.

He was surprised when the five-member Martinsburg Board of Zoning Appeals didn't approve his application last month. At least four votes were needed for it to pass; it got three.

Now, Joseph Allen and his father, Paul, who owns the property, have appealed to Berkeley County Circuit Court to overturn the decision.


If board Chairman Clark Johnson had voted for the application, it would have passed. The tally was 3 in favor and 1 against when it was Johnson's turn to vote. He abstained, so the request failed.

Johnson did not want to talk specifically about the case during an interview. He would say only, "The man had already built the building and he did it without a permit."

The Allens don't dispute that. But Joseph Allen said someone in the city Planning Department told him the addition was routine, so he and a friend built most of it one Saturday and he applied for the permit two days later.

He added, though, that city employees did not know he would build the garage extension before securing a permit.

Michael Covell, the city engineer/planner, said Allen's garage is a nonconforming structure, erected before setback requirements were enforced, so a permit is needed to enlarge it.

The city code says such enlargements may be allowed if they are "not detrimental to the surrounding development."

Allen's garage had been 20-feet-by-20-feet until he built the 10-foot-by-20-foot extension. He said last week that it only needed a rain gutter and some finishing.

He is using it to store antique furniture he restores and sells. He works mainly with mahogany, walnut and oak.

Allen said his brother, Mel Allen, has a separate antique furniture business at the Antique Workshop, a block away.

In his appeal, Paul Allen said he bought 808 W. King St. from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development about 18 months ago.

Joseph, who lives there, is renovating it and putting in new plumbing and wiring. "I'm trying to build this place back. ... I've been trying to make a difference," he said.

He said he is getting rid of three apartments and turning it back into a one-family home by the end of the year.

"This neighborhood sure doesn't need any more rentals," he said.

When the Allens' request came before the board on Feb. 1, member Carolyn Snyder said the extension would not hurt anyone, according to the minutes.

Snyder, Carolyn Brown and William Lucht voted in favor. Rex Rinker voted against it, and Johnson did not vote.

The Allens filed their appeal on Feb. 29. Paul Allen wrote that no one in the neighborhood objected to the extension, and his son needs it to store furniture and repair vehicles in the winter.

The Allens are contend also that one of the board's two alternates should have filled in when Johnson decided not to vote.

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