Hearing set on proposed new Union Rescue Mission facility in Martinsburg

February 03, 2008|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. -- A long-standing and controversial plan by the Martinsburg Union Rescue Mission to upgrade its facilities for homeless men in the city is expected to draw a large crowd Tuesday night at a public hearing.

The Board of Zoning Appeals meeting is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Tuesday in the city council chambers on the second floor of City Hall at 232 N. Queen St. Two unrelated public hearings are scheduled before the rescue mission's hearing.

"I'm hoping people are not coming just to be a spectator and to make insightful statements," Martinsburg City Engineer Michael M. Covell said.

The rescue mission has asked for variances to the city's zoning regulations in order to build a 20,000-square-foot facility along the north side of the 600 block of West King Street. The variances ask for leeway in application of the city's rules for parking, appropriateness in relationship to neighboring development, building lot coverage and setback distances from property boundaries, according to documents filed with Covell's office.


In a presentation to Main Street Martinsburg in January, Union Rescue Mission board member Terry Lindsay told the downtown economic revitalization group that the organization hoped to build a 98-bed facility with a modern kitchen and dining area, recreation space and multipurpose rooms.

"We will be able to monitor all building entries and exits 24 hours a day," Lindsay said.

The project was first announced in November 2005, but it has lacked the necessary funding. It's not immediately clear when construction could begin if the zoning appeals board approves the requests.

Lindsay also said the rescue mission has no intention of using the current shelter when the new building is finished.

The current facility, a 100-year-old house at 602 W. King St., was designed for a large family, not the 55 to 80 men who have been provided shelter and meals there, Lindsay said.

Leading up to Tuesday's meeting, Martinsburg Police Department Chief Donald T.C. "Ted" Anderson supplied copies of all dispatch complaints that the agency has received about the rescue mission from Jan. 1, 2005, to last week in response to a request by city planning staff.

The stack of reports is nearly 2 inches thick, and Anderson said the records did not include ones generated from a location other than 602 W. King St. that could have involved residents of the mission.

City planning staff noted that the rescue mission's request comes as neighboring redevelopment of the Interwoven Mill complex and other commercial projects are moving ahead.

"Adjacent properties have been rehabilitated into new businesses, such as the Depot Florist, Alpha Associates and the former Booth's Bicycle shop is currently being renovated," city officials said.

"There are extensive plans and continuing renovations for the redevelopment of over 400,000 square feet within the Interwoven Mill complex. ...

Sustaining this current pattern into the future may serve to stabilize the surrounding residential area, facilitating the argument for increased numbers of owner-occupied dwellings and more desirable tenants in rental units," city officials said.

Public hearing

What: A public hearing on a plan by the Martinsburg (W.Va.) Union Rescue Mission to upgrade its facilities

When: Tuesday, 6:30 p.m.

Where: Martinsburg City Council chambers, second floor of City Hall, 232 N. Queen St., Martinsburg

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