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Boydville wine fest fuels fight over usage

February 18, 2006|By ROBERT SNYDER

martinsburg@herald-mail.com

MARTINSBURG, W.VA. -

It's been more than 140 years since a reputed last-minute intervention by President Abraham Lincoln saved the historic house from being burned to the ground, but people are still fighting over Boydville.

Two members of the Berkeley County Commission and its legal counsel took turns uncorking concerns Thursday over a proposed wine festival held each year for a decade on the grounds of the 13-acre property, renewing contention with the county's farmland bureau, which bought the property last year.

Commissioner Ron Collins said he was disturbed by media reports that said the farmland board and the Arts Centre had worked out an agreement to hold this year's annual Wine and Jazz Festival on the property without the commissioners having been informed and without their consent.

"This is another situation where the governing body of this county is being circumvented. We're responsible for anything that comes out of there," Collins said.

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But, farmland board Executive Director Lavonne Paden said nothing more has been decided formally since a meeting this month when Commission President Howard Strauss asked board members to obtain a legal opinion about having alcohol on the property.

"There hasn't been any further action on anything since the last county commission meeting," Paden said, adding that the board hopes to have opinions from attorney David Hammer on alcohol and other uses for the property in time for its next meeting Thursday.

Collins also said he was against the sale and consumption of alcohol on what has become county property since the purchase of the site for $2.5 million by the Berkeley County Farmland Protection Board in December. Commission legal counsel Norwood Bentley told commissioners the county would be liable if an accident happened as a result of alcohol consumption on the site.

Commissioner Steve Teufel wanted assurance that an incident would be insured under a separate event license.

Bentley also renewed concerns about the legality of the farmland board owning Boydville and of uses allowed for it under the board's ownership.

Paden has said the farmland board can purchase property. On Friday, she said she this week attended a state Senate Finance Committee hearing, during which the committee's attorney said efforts to limit uses on properties acquired by farmland protection boards would require amendments to the state code.

"There was a desire on that act and it was very clearly intended for the Voluntary Farmland Protection Act that tourism was supported," Paden said.

The latest dustup is one of a number that have dogged the property since the farmland board purchased it from a Virginia development company to prevent it from being subdivided.

Last week, the Martinsburg City Council, in a move to keep the wine festival at Boydville, voted to pledge $500 to the Arts Centre to help that group meet the $2,500 cost set by the farm board to lease the property. Arts Centre members said other locations were considered, which provoked a flap with the city's police department.

In January, the commission threatened to force the farmland board to insure Boydville itself rather than as part of the county's policy with the state Board of Risk Management after discovering the property had been added to its list of assets. Commissioners ultimately agreed to keep the appraised $1.2 million property on its policy if the board picked up the $2,000 annual premium increase.

People may comment on possible uses for the property at a meeting today at 9 a.m. at the commission's chambers at 400 W. Stephen St. in Martinsburg.

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