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Sign posting change proposed in Berkeley Co.

January 18, 2006|by ROBERT SNYDER

martinsburg@herald-mail.com

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Public notice signs on display in Berkeley County reveal that there are no shortage of development projects in the works in this fast-growing county.

Now, a proposal by the county's planning department to remove the public posting requirement from the county's land development rules could make those signs disappear.

County Planning Director Stephanie Allemong said she will submit a proposal to the County Commission that will eliminate a public notice requirement from the county's Subdivision Regulations and add it under the rules' policies section. Allemong said it will remain the planning department's policy to present developers with signage when they come in ahead of a public hearing for their projects.

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"We're not going to discontinue the signage," Allemong said. "It's still going to be our policy that they take our signs and post them."

The change was not greeted favorably by some county residents, who called the sign posting a minimum requirement for developers.

Addressing the planning commission near the end of its meeting Tuesday, planning commission legal counsel Patrick Henry said the proposed change was based on revisions to new land-use planning legislation in the West Virginia State Code that eliminates a requirement for the posting of signs.

Allemong said the change was done to protect the planning commission from potential litigation if a sign posted by a developer is removed by theft or blown over by the wind.

"If we have an issue, do we cancel the public hearing and make the developer readvertise?" Allemong said.

The planning commission canceled all of its public hearings scheduled at a meeting late last year following a decision by Circuit Judge Christopher Wilkes that the commission failed to abide by its own signage rules in approving a project near Whiting's Neck in May. The night's cancellations drew an angry response from developers.

Despite the change to the state rule, Jefferson County plans to continue its public posting policy.

Jefferson County rules require a developer wanting to build homes at a site to post a sign on the property notifying the public of a community impact statement public hearing, Jefferson County Planning Commission officials said.

The notice must be posted on the property 15 days before the public hearing is held on the community impact statement, which serves to outline the development's impact on the surrounding area, planning commission officials said.

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