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Access to Trula B's blocked

September 20, 2007|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD

MARTINSBURG, W.VA. - A string of railroad ties, vehicles, trailers and old tour buses has forced customers of Trula B's Coffee House since Tuesday morning to either walk about 50 yards or more to get to the restaurant in Berkeley Plaza or drive their vehicle through a strip of grass and trees from Williamsport Pike (U.S. 11).

And the man who admitted responsibility for the action on Wednesday said the barricade will not be removed around the former BB&T branch bank building, regardless of laws that guarantee a property owner right-of-way access.

"Those vehicles, no matter what you write, are not moving," said George Van Wagner, who identified himself as manager of the adjoining Berkeley Plaza shopping center.

Van Wagner claims James Tucker, the restaurant property owner, isn't landlocked by the barricade because he has 130 feet of frontage along Williamsport Pike.

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Tucker expects the matter to end up in court, but said Wednesday evening he had intentions to apply for an entrance permit directly from his property to the busy state highway.

"This is an issue about my rights being violated," said Tucker, whose daughter and three others are equal partners in the restaurant business, which opened in May.

"Embarrassed" by being in the middle of an apparent dispute between the two businessmen, restaurant partner Trula Christian said customers were "up in arms" about the situation.

She said some moved the railroad ties, which only were reinforced by the parking of a backhoe, a car-hauling trailer, two tour buses and haul trucks to prevent any customers from parking close.

A food vendor driver found himself blocked in after arriving Tuesday to make a delivery, said Christian, who has contacted law enforcement about the situation. It wasn't clear how the barricade would impact any possible emergency response to the property.

"It's my business that's immediately being threatened," Christian said.

Defending his actions, Van Wagner claims the restaurant never had the legal footing to open a restaurant in the bank building because of covenant restrictions in a 1973 deed. Access to the plaza's parking as a result of the change of use also was negated, he claims.

Tucker said he spent a substantial amount of money to have attorney Stephen M. Mathias of Martinsburg have the covenant restrictions removed from the deed, apparently before Van Wagner and business partner Brent Jackson had a vested interest in the plaza.

Mathias declined to comment because Tucker had not released him from attorney-client confidentiality privileges.

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