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Berkeley Co. to sit on subdivision regulation changes

February 03, 2006|by ROBERT SNYDER

martinsburg@herald-mail.com

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - So varied were the comments heard by the Berkeley County Commission during a public comment meeting about a revision to the county's subdivision rules, one could wonder if all the parties were speaking about the same document.

In comments, which commission President Howard Strauss gently recommended last "approximately" three minutes long, speakers both praised and panned proposed changes to the county's Subdivision and Development Regulations, a revision of which was completed late last year by the planning commission.

And some did both.

In the end, commissioners elected to take a pass on approving the regulations pending a review by the commission's counsel of state land use regulations, passed in 2004, and of the county's 15-year-old Comprehensive Development Plan.

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Commissioners appeared to take their cue from Building A Better Eastern Panhandle attorney Peter Chakmakian, who accused them of rushing to adopt an ordinance that relied on a master land use plan that should have been updated five years earlier.

"I submit to you that any ordinance or amendment relying (on the current Comprehensive Development Plan) would be void and unenforceable," Chakmakian said, calling the current plan "old and out-of-date."

Chakmakian recommended the commission adopt the county's revised plan before voting to adopt its subdivision ordinance.

In calling for waiting to adopt the ordinance, County Commissioner Steve Teufel said the comprehensive plan's adoption was still another 90 to 120 days away.

The proposed ordinance also found an enemy with several land control proponents.

Scrabble resident Carolyn Thomas called on the commission to submit the ordinance to consultants Gannett-Fleming, Inc., the company currently contracted to develop the county's comprehensive plan.

"This plan is in need of a second opinion," said Thomas, who decried what she said were numerous "errors and omissions" to the document.

"The subdivision of land is the first step in the process of community building," Thomas read from a prepared statement. "Poor subdivisions in the county have created hardships for residents and the community at large. They have increased the cost of public and private improvements, caused traffic congestion, threatened the delivery of emergency services, overcrowded schools and threatened water quality and water quantity."

Strauss, who called the ordinance a "living document," said improvements to the rules can be made even after its adoption.

"At some point there needs to be some balance. We need to move ahead with some specific changes," Strauss said ahead of calling for further review of the ordinance.

In other matters, the commission voted to enter into negotiations with Gannett-Fleming to develop a zoning ordinance.

The decision followed the recommendation of county Planner Matt Mullenax, who said utilizing the services of the company is a "natural extension" of work the company is already performing for the county.

Gannett-Fleming was hired by the planning commission in 2004 to assist with developing the comprehensive plan.

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