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Planner describes process as 'sad, comical'

November 07, 2006|by MATTHEW UMSTEAD

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - A Berkeley County planning commissioner who has repeatedly voted against numerous residential projects announced Monday that the panel has broken virtually every state record on approving houses this year.

As of Oct. 16, the commission approved 4,662 residential units since the beginning of the year, according to Commissioner Richard Talbott's calculations.

"It was going to be a 1,000 house night," Talbott said at the end of the commission's regular meeting. The commission actually approved 700 units, he said.

Talbott noted that a preliminary plat review requested by Mills Farm LLC for 217 single- family lots, 71 town houses and nine commercial lots off U.S. 11 south of West Virginia Eastern Regional Airport was shelved because a public hearing sign for the request was not posted for 30 days as required.

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"It's almost comical," Talbott said of the circumstances facing the Planning Commission, which has little power to slow development.

"But it's sad."

Talbott said he has voted against projects because he believes they violate the "public health, safety and welfare" mandate in the county's subdivision regulations.

"Who wants to put a house where no cop is going to come?" said Talbott after he earlier noted the disparity in law enforcement officers employed in Frederick County, Va., versus Berkeley County.

Talbott also claimed that statistics show Berkeley County is ranked first among all 55 counties for "major crime."

Planning Commission legal counsel Patrick Henry said after the meeting that the Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia, the state's high court, ruled that "measurable standards" must be in place.

Talbott, along with Commissioner Gary Matthews, on Monday vote against the preliminary plat reviews for two phases of Winebrenner's Crossing subdivision, which is projected to have a total of 340 single-family lots, 169 town houses and 88 duplexes on about 209 acres.

The property is in the northeastern corner of the intersection of Golf Course Road and the CSX Transportation rail line.

"We haven't even talked about the police, which scares me the most," Talbott said after a vote for the project's second phase was taken.

At least one resident doubted whether the roads serving the development would be able to handle the additional traffic caused by the subdivision, citing daily rush-hour congestion and the annual Berkeley County Youth Fair traffic as examples of strained infrastructure.

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