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Store rezoning request defeated

August 12, 2004|by CANDICE BOSELY

martinsburg@herald-mail.com

MARTINSBURG, W.VA. - Plans to build a Walgreens drug store in Martinsburg took a step backward Wednesday when Martinsburg City Council members refused to rezone a piece of residential property to a business classification.

Council members voted 4-1 not to rezone the land. Councilman Richard Yauger was the only person who voted for the rezoning classification.

A developer planned to build the store on property near the West King Street and Old Mill Road intersection, close to the Martinsburg Mall.

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The 1.13-acre property is zoned as Urban Residential. Attorney Clarence E. "CEM" Martin asked that it be rezoned as Community Business.

The property owners, John and Sarah Miller, have received an offer to sell the land so a Walgreens can be built there, Martin said.

Because the property is an "island" surrounded by roads and is nearly surrounded by other businesses, keeping the zoning classification as residential makes no sense, Martin said.

He added that the property is 300 feet from the Interstate 81 interchange with King Street (exit 13).

Councilman Donald Anderson said that at a June 2 city Planning Commission meeting the meeting room was full of people who opposed the plan. Nine people spoke against rezoning the land and a petition with 176 signatures of nearby residents was presented, he said.

Martin responded that 176 people do not represent the interests of 15,000 people in the city.

A radio station is on one side of the land and across the street are several businesses, including two gas stations, Martin said. That area has changed significantly over the years and what once was fields is now an interstate and commercial corridor, he added.

To try to address some concerns, Martin said Walgreens officials were willing to close at midnight rather than stay open 24 hours a day. Also, he said, no alcohol would be sold.

Martin said if the rezoning request is not granted, the Miller's property rights might be violated.

Councilwoman Shari Knadler Persad noted that turning left from the Sheetz or ROCS gas stations across the street already is difficult. Another business there could further hinder traffic, she said.

Councilman Max Parkinson said he worried that another business could open there instead of a Walgreens if the zoning were changed.

Also, he said, a precedent might be set, forcing Council members to approve a rezoning request for another nearby piece of property that is currently zoned residential.

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