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W.Va. zoning board shoots down video requests

February 17, 2006|by DAVE McMILLION

charlestown@herald-mail.com

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - A Jefferson County board Thursday night denied requests to allow video lottery at two small grocery stores in the county after people decried gambling as sinful and said the machines were not compatible with their communities.

The Jefferson County Zoning Board of Appeals denied the requests on 4-1 votes.

Board member Jeff Bresee, who voted to deny both requests, said he could not see where the county's zoning ordinance allowed the video lottery machines, which are similar to the slot machines at Charles Town Races & Slots.

The proposals called for allowing five video lottery machines at the Foodway Supermarket and Tavern on Mission Road on the Blue Ridge Mountain and five video lottery machines at a grocery store along Summit Point Road in the Summit Point, W.Va., area.

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Kery Fries, who owns the grocery store building in Summit Point, said the store cannot generate enough money to succeed and the lottery machines are needed to supplement revenue.

Manny Desai, who owns the Foodway Supermarket and Tavern, formerly Weber's Market, said he wanted to have video lottery machines in a restaurant and bar in the store.

People who opposed the requests packed the zoning board of appeals meeting at the Charles Town Library to speak against the proposals.

Blue Ridge Mountain residents who spoke against Desai's proposal said there are problems with car wrecks in the mountain area and said they feared drunken drivers would be on the road if Desai's request was approved.

One speaker described his fellow community members as "God-fearing people" and Karen Stegall, owner of Grammy's Place day-care center, said she teaches kids about the dangers of drinking.

"I don't want a model right down our road saying it's OK," Stegall said.

The zoning board was presented with a petition containing 259 signatures of people who are opposed to Desai's proposal. A woman who was opposing the Summit Point proposal said she had a 260-name petition opposing that plan.

After the vote to deny Desai's request, J. Michael Cassell, Desai's attorney, said he and Desai were considering their options. Desai has 30 days to appeal the decision to Jefferson County Circuit Court, Cassell said.

Regarding the Summit Point proposal, Summit Point residents said their community is a quiet neighborhood and video lottery would not mix well with the town.

"Where's the morality to this? Gambling's a sin," said Summit Point resident Michael Dick. "Summit Point has hardly changed at all and that's the way we want to keep it."

A few people spoke in favor of the proposals, saying they did not see what all the concern was about and that Desai's proposal would make it a fun place to go.

Nancy Lutz said she does not understand why someone should be penalized for wanting to operate a legitimate business. Lutz said gray machines, which were unregulated gambling machines that existed before the current video lottery machines were allowed in the state, used to exist in the grocery store in Summit Point and they never led to any problems.

Fries and Desai said they believed opponents did not understand what they were proposing.

Desai said his restaurant would concentrate on being a good place for families to come and added that he would limit alcoholic drinks to two servings.

Fries said the grocery store in Summit Point will not have a bar or live music, but will have a place separated from the rest of the store where people can play the machines.

"Nobody wants to listen," said Mack Hooe, who would have operated the Summit Point store.

"This is all over people not understanding," Hooe told the zoning board.

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