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Candidates make platforms known at forum

Berkeley Co. Republicans host commission candidate forum

Berkeley Co. Republicans host commission candidate forum

March 17, 2006|by ROBERT SNYDER

MARTINSBURG, W.VA. - Growth and planning dominated the discussion Thursday when a quartet of Republican prospects for Berkeley County Commission introduced their platforms to the county's Republican Club at a reception in Martinsburg.

"You take a ride in Berkeley County anytime of day, you're going to see traffic, you're going to see houses, you're going to see development," said candidate Ted Morgan, saying the county is behind in addressing growth issues.

"We're being overrun, and my concern is we don't get run over," said Morgan, who called for a countywide recycling program and the adoption of a comprehensive land-use management plan.

Morgan, a former Martinsburg city councilman and present member of the county's parks and recreation board, was followed to the podium by fellow Republicans Bill Stubblefield, Bob Grove and Larry Faircloth. Each is competing for the single commission seat being vacated by Commissioner Howard Strauss.

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A fifth Republican candidate, Marty Kilmer, did not attend.

While agreeing on a number of topics during a round of questioning, including the use of eminent domain (they're against it) and increasing the state's Homestead Exemption (they're for it), the candidates parted company with one another on the issue of zoning.

Grove, a former chairman of the county's sewer district, said he'd do little to support a zoning measure, which he likened to eminent domain.

"If I don't own that cotton-picking land, what business do I have to tell someone what to do with it?" said Grove, who indicated zoning was being pushed by newcomers to the county. "If voters put it in, I'm going to do the minimum."

Stubblefield, who heads the county's water district, and has led a committee directing a rewrite of the county's comprehensive plan, said the county could benefit from a land management plan.

"I think all of us would like to go back to a world where we had our piece of property and we were protected, but I don't think we have that luxury anymore," Stubblefield said.

Stubblefield said the county needs to grow where the infrastructure supports growth, and called for the adoption of transferable development rights, and the rights of the voters to make substantive changes to land-use ordinances.

Former state legislator Faircloth, who also voiced concern about the loss of property rights under zoning, said the current field of candidates may have little say in the matter since the issue is slated to be up for referendum in November.

Faircloth, who called for flexibility in how property taxes are assessed, agreed the county's growth rate is a growing problem.

"The growth is outpacing the growth of the infrastructure and it's becoming a headache for the people who have to live in this county," Faircloth said.

Stubblefield later challenged an assertion by Grove that the county had adequate supplies of drinking water, adding recharge rates for private wells remain a concern. "Outside of the public water system there is a problem with recharge," said Stubblefield. "If you want to pump water all over the county, you've got to come up with a lot of money."

The winner of the Republican primary will face Democrat Sonny Brown in November's General Election.

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