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Revised Berkeley County zoning law back in public's court

November 27, 2007|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - A revised version of the zoning ordinance proposed for Berkeley County will be the focus of yet another round of public hearings this week as county leaders continue to work toward finalizing land-use guidelines that voters are expected to consider at the polls in May.

The Berkeley County Planning Commission is scheduled to meet at 7 tonight in the county commission chambers in the county's administration building at 400 W. Stephen St. to hear public comment.

A leading member of the advisory committee charged with helping mold the more than 100-page zoning document expects the comments to be "more focused" than at the hearing held on the first draft of the ordinance.

After sifting through about 75 public comments on the June draft of the ordinance, Berkeley County Planner Matthew Mullenax said advisory committee members made changes and added and deleted portions.

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The 50 or so comments incorporated into the revised, "November draft" of the ordinance were either typed in bold or struck through so people can see what changes were made, Mullenax said.

Two of the most significant changes pertain to requirements for rural residential zoning and nonconforming areas, Mullenax said.

After the hearings this week, Mullenax said the Berkeley County Planning Commission will review public comments and decide whether to make additional changes.

A vote by the Planning Commission to send the proposal to the Berkeley County Commission for additional review could happen by mid-December, Mullenax said.

"It's going to depend on the volume and the type of comments received (this week)," Mullenax said.

After reviewing the Planning Commission's zoning report, the County Commission is expected to hold two more public hearings, Mullenax said.

If county commissioners make "substantial" amendments to the proposed ordinance, they would be required by state law to hold another public hearing before placing the proposal on the ballot, Mullenax said.

As the zoning ordinance proposal advances, a companion ordinance that would allow a landowner to sell or transfer his rights to develop property to another landowner also is approaching the required public hearing stages before it can be placed on the ballot.

Mullenax said members of the zoning advisory committee received fewer than 10 comments about the Transferable Development Rights ordinance after holding a series of public education workshops about the eight-page proposal earlier this month.

"We had, overall, about 40 people come out," Mullenax said.

If zoning is not approved by the voters, the Transferable Development Rights ordinance can not be enacted, regardless if a majority of voters separately favors the concept.

Overall, Mullenax said he believed a series of educational workshops for the zoning ordinance were very helpful and noted that some people opposed to zoning still were willing to put in their "two cents."

Though he wished more people would have attended the workshops, Mullenax said he thought those who did were representative of the county's population.

"I think we got a pretty good swath," Mullenax said. "It's just like a (good) term paper, you get more eyes on it. Kudos to all the (people) who made their comments."




Public hearings



What: Public comments on revised version of proposed ordinance will be heard by the Berkeley County Planning Commission.

Where: County Commission Chambers, Berkeley County Offices, 400 W. Stephen St., Martinsburg

When: 7 p.m., Tuesday and Wednesday

If unable to attend, send comments to berkeley.zoning@gmail.com or mail them to Matthew Mullenax, Berkeley County Planning Department, Suite 203, 400 W. Stephen St., Martinsburg, WV 25401 or contact him at 304-263-1964.

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