Berkeley County residents petition against brick company's plans

January 08, 2008|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - A brick manufacturer's apparent shale mining plans for property it purchased in southern Berkeley County kick-started a petition drive and plenty of outrage among neighbors who shared their furor with the county's planning commissioners on Monday.

"We are all one county and in this together," said Wendy Hudock, one of several property owners to sound off against Continental Brick Co.'s $2.6 million real estate purchase next to her and her husband Stevan Hudock's historic estate in Gerrardstown, W.Va..

"Gerrardstown today, your backyard tomorrow," she said.

Hudock presented planning commission president Donald Fox with a petition of 780 signatures and later adjusted the figure to more than 800 that she said a small group of people collected at the post office, a local grocery store, gas station and by going door to door in less than a week.

But with no plans from the brick company to review, the planning commission had few answers to the questions of environmental health, road safety and negative impact on the historic town that residents raised during the commission's "sunshine law" public forum.


Even with a zoning ordinance enacted, County Planner Matthew Mullenax told Hudock that limitations in state law doesn't necessarily prevent such an industrial project in an area such as Gerrardstown.

As a result, Mullenax said efforts were made to incorporate a "conditional use" approval process in the proposed zoning guidelines, which are scheduled to be considered by county voters in the May primary election.

"If zoning doesn't pass there is no protections," planning commission legal counsel Norwood Bentley said.

In a letter to the Hudocks, Continental Brick executive Don Sult assured them that their "activities" for a neighboring 224-acre property, along with additional acreage they have since added, "will be done in a manner that will have minimal impact on the neighbors and nearby property owners."

Still, Gerrardstown resident Trudy Slater feared the destruction of a historic view shed from nearby North Mountain. And others questioned how often windy conditions would affect the spread of air pollution.

"Have you ever ridden to the top of Mills Gap on North Mountain? You can see forever on a clear day," Slater said answering her own question.

Slater said she helped get the historic town placed on the National Register of Historic Places and wrote a book about the unincorporated community along W.Va. 51, which was founded by a Baptist minister in the 1780s.

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