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Planner lays down the law in Berkeley County

July 19, 2005|by CANDICE BOSLEY

martinsburg@herald-mail.com

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Two weeks after a lawsuit was filed against the Berkeley County Planning Commission, alleging that the commissioners do not follow their own rules and regulations, one Planning Commission member on Monday night introduced a set procedure that all developers must follow when submitting projects.

Ron Collins, the Berkeley County Commission's representative on the Planning Commission, said the new procedures should make the process of having a project reviewed by the Planning Commission more consistent, smoother and faster.

One section of the procedures - which took effect at 7:10 p.m. Monday when Collins read them aloud - deals with employees in the county's Planning Department.

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"There will be zero tolerance of any and all abuse of employees," the regulations state.

Collins said such situations have arisen.

"When you speak to these employees, you speak to them with respect," Collins told a crowd of around 75 people gathered for the meeting.

Collins also said developers must keep track of when various permits expire.

"It is not the responsibility of the Planning Department to baby-sit the expiration dates of any permit(s)," the regulations state.

Other new regulations include:

  • Preliminary plats will not be accepted unless all required permits are submitted with the plat.

  • For final plat approval, one Mylar and eight paper copies must be submitted, along with a copy of any covenants and restrictions. Planning Department attorney Patrick Henry must receive a copy and provide a letter approving of any covenants and restrictions.

  • After a final plat is approved, a letter of credit or bond must be in the Planning Department within 90 days.

  • All paperwork must be submitted 30 days before a project can be placed on a Planning Commission agenda.

  • Paperwork must be submitted five days before a public hearing can be scheduled.



Although Collins did not refer to it, a lawsuit was filed two weeks before Monday night's meeting naming the Planning Commission.

The lawsuit, filed by Concerned Citizens of Whiting's Neck, alleges the Planning Commission failed to properly advertise a hearing dealing with a subdivision named Greensburg Estates, that the developer never obtained the necessary permits to install multiple houses on a single septic system, and that the developer's plan to cap a sinkhole could negatively affect a neighboring farmer's water supply.

Attorney Garry Geffert, who filed the suit, said the group's intent is not to stop the development, but to ensure the Planning Commission follows its own regulations.

Several members of Concerned Citizens of Whiting's Neck attended the meeting Monday night and addressed an unrelated project that calls for building 500 houses or more in the area of Needy and Van Clevesville roads.

A favorable ruling from a judge should mean better planning throughout the county in the future, with room for farmers and with developments that respect the land, one member of the group has argued.

"I think our grandchildren will curse us for the poor land-use decisions we're making," David Klinger, a member of Concerned Citizens of Whiting's Neck, has said.

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