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Commission candidates hot on zoning issue

October 30, 2002|by CANDICE BOSELY

martinsburg@herald-mail.com

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Whether one calls it zoning or "responsible land use and development" it's an issue that separates the two men seeking a spot on the Berkeley County Commission in Tuesday's election.

Butch Pennington, 55, and Steven Teufel, 43, both of Martinsburg, are vying for the seat currently held by Commissioner Robert Burkhart, who decided not to seek re-election.

Pennington, a Martinsburg High School graduate, attended Shepherd College, but did not receive a degree. He owns three businesses - Pennington's Auto Center, Penn Liquors and Big Apple Liquors, all in Berkeley County.

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Teufel, a Hedgesville High School graduate, received a bachelor's degree from West Virginia University. He ran a pork farm for several years, then worked for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). He left that job to become a full-time candidate, he said.

Pennington was born and raised in Berkeley County, and is running for the second time for a commission seat. Teufel moved here when he was 4 years old, and is trying for a third time to gain the seat.

On the issue of zoning, Teufel opposes it.

Pennington favors it, although he prefers the term "responsible land use and development."

Many people may have a preconceived idea that zoning means people cannot do what they want with their property, Pennington said. In reality, zoning means no more restrictions to the average citizen than building codes already in place, he said.

What zoning would do is keep landfills, racetracks, tire piles and other sites that could be considered nuisances from popping up near homes, Pennington said.

With zoning in place, the county could implement the Local Powers Act, sometimes called home rule. Three other criteria needed to enact the bill are already in place: BOCA codes, subdivision regulations and a comprehensive plan.

Home rule is important, Pennington said, because it would give the county the authority to charge impact fees on developers. Impact fees help pay for the infrastructure needed when new homes are built - like water and sewer lines, roads and schools. Now, those costs are paid for with tax money, Pennington said.

Zoning also would allow for green space and farms to be preserved - some of the reasons people move here, Pennington said.

"I want people to understand that it's more of a quality-of-life issue than a you-can't do-something (with your land or home) issue," Pennington said.

Zoning would not prevent people from painting their home, putting up a fence or building a shed, he said.

Teufel, however, said zoning will drive up home prices and prevent lower income families from owning homes. Businesses might not locate here if workers cannot buy a home, he said.

Teufel said he believes zoning would not stop bars and strip clubs from opening. That, he said, might take an act of the state Legislature.

He also believes it would not curtail residential construction.

"People are going to come here because they want affordable housing," he said. "I look for moderate growth, controlled growth to keep coming. Zoning's not going to stop that. It's just going to cluster it."

He said zoning could impose restrictions on residents. A farmer, for example, might not be able to sell his land to a developer if zoning was implemented.

"It takes away the rights of landowners," he said.

On a separate issue, Teufel said he hopes to make the last-call time at area bars 11:30 p.m. Currently, depending on the day of the week, last call can be as late - or as early - as 3:30 a.m.

He also hopes to have five, rather than the current three, commissioners.

Pennington, meanwhile, said he hopes to hold some commission meetings throughout the county, rather than at the courthouse, to encourage more public participation. The commissioners meet every Thursday at 9:30 a.m. and once a month at 7 p.m.

Both men agree that officials in Berkeley County, which has suffered through droughts in recent years, need to examine long-term water availability.

The commissioners, who are elected at-large, make around $30,000 a year and serve six-year terms.

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