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Access to Trula B's Coffee House still blocked

October 04, 2007|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. ? A blockade of Trula B's Coffee House in Berkeley Plaza remains in place as an apparent dispute between the owners of the neighboring properties just outside Martinsburg continues in Berkeley County Circuit Court.

In civil actions filed with the court last week, attorney R. Greg Garretson filed a motion for a restraining order, along with a complaint that claims the barriers of railroad ties, vehicles and plastic fencing, among other objects placed around the business Sept. 18, created a "hazard to the health, property and persons of (property owner James Tucker) Trula B's and their customers, employees, agents, delivery persons, etc."

As of Wednesday, no hearings had been set for the case, which was assigned to 23rd Judicial Circuit Judge Christopher C. Wilkes, according to court records.

The complaint filed Sept. 27 on behalf of Tucker Properties LLC names owner Brent Jackson of Berkeley Plaza LLC and George Van Wagner, the plaza's manager.

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The defendants' attorney, Michael Scales, wasn't available for comment and Van Wagner said only that he received a "courtesy copy" of the litigation. Van Wagner said Jackson was out of town.

"This is going to be a good one," said Van Wagner, who reiterated his claim that Tucker didn't have access to enough parking to legally open the restaurant in May.

The complaint by Tucker claims his purchase of the property at 715 Williamsport Pike in November 2006 included rights to use the parking in Berkeley Plaza as explained in a deed recorded in 1973. However, a copy of Garretson's civil action filed with the court does not appear to explicitly mention the covenant restriction in the same deed, which required the building be operated as a bank or be offered for sale to the plaza owners, a requirement Van Wagner claims was violated.

Tucker has said that he spent a substantial amount of money to have an attorney remove the covenant restrictions from the deed, before Van Wagner and business partner Brent Jackson had a vested interest in the plaza.

Van Wagner and Jackson in previous interviews noted plans to build a 12-story building near or on the same property as Trula B's, but the complaint filed by Tucker's attorney indicates his client told Van Wagner it wasn't for sale in July 2007.

While the parking issue is in dispute, restaurant business partner Trula Christian said Wednesday that customers have been able to use a gravel driveway created Friday from U.S. 11 to the business.

Christian said the owners received an entrance permit from the West Virginia Division of Highways. Agency officials familiar with the permit application could not reached for comment Wednesday.

Blockaded on three sides since the morning of Sept. 18, Christian said the restaurant's "drive-up" service was virtually wiped out. The restaurant made use of the existing bank building's drive-through feature and also uses the vault for food storage.

"It shrinked up instantly," Christian said. "It was about half of our lunch proceeds."

Aside from the restraining order and access to the parking, Tucker's lawsuit also asks the court to award damages and other relief.

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