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Forty speak up about proposed subdivision regulations

July 18, 2007|by MATTHEW UMSTEAD

MARTINSBURG, W.VA. - The temperature in Berkeley County Commission meeting chambers on Tuesday night was noticeably elevated by the crowd that packed the room for the public hearing on proposed subdivision regulations.

Practically every one of the 80 seats was filled for the Planning Commission's special session. Extra chairs brought in for the hearing that spanned nearly three hours likely caused a fire hazard and people were still left standing.

By the time it was over, about 40 people, one by one, had made their way to the podium and offered their comments and criticisms, some more passionately than others.

Whitings Neck resident Betty Beckley, the last to speak, urged the planning commissioners to sort the wheat from the proverbial chafe.

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"You have to sort out what is rhetoric and what is real," Beckley said before sharing a story about hearing how a developer was criticized for proposing to do more than what was required by county regulations.

"There are developers who want to do the right thing," Beckley said.

Doug Copenhaver, a lifelong Berkeley County resident and builder for 25 years, urged the commission to be mindful of the proposed regulation's effect on the cost of housing on county residents, not just people moving in.

"Keep in mind affordability for the future of our children," Copenhaver said.

David Hartley, executive officer of the Eastern Panhandle Home Builders Association, had members of the group stand while at the podium and read a portion of the Tri-County organization's mission, emphasizing its interest in "reasonable regulations."

Several individuals with development interests, including geologists, engineers and attorneys representing their clients, indicated they found fault with the 190-page document's definitions, 12 articles and three appendices. Some still applauded the proposed revisions as an improvement on the current language, if only confusing.

"I just hope they don't try to push this through too fast," Mike Wiley, president of the Eastern Panhandle Home Builders Association board, said after giving his remarks.

After the hearing, Commission President Donald Fox estimated that the subdivision ordinance could be approved later this year.

Any revisions to the ordinance draft, based on the thick stack of written comments submitted to the commission on Tuesday night and in the coming days, will result in another public hearing, officials said.

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