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Zoning proposal will be on Berkeley County ballot in May

April 16, 2008|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. -- Berkeley County voters in the primary election will have the opportunity to decide whether to adopt zoning and a companion land-use ordinance in areas outside the county's two municipalities.

By a unanimous vote Tuesday morning, the Berkeley County Commission approved final drafts of the proposed regulations, which eventually will be available for review on the commission's Web site and at county public libraries.

"I think we have bent over backwards to allow public comment," said Commissioner William L. "Bill" Stubblefield, who made the motion to accept the ordinance and allow voters to decide the issue May 13.

The commission on Tuesday mostly rejected any changes that were suggested during two public meetings held Monday, including a zoning map change requested by the City of Martinsburg's planning director.

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A technical change to clarify the allowance of manufactured homes on single-family lots was approved by the commission, but still not considered substantial enough to delay the consideration of the ordinance by the voters, legal counsel Norwood Bentley III said.

Bentley said the legality of the zoning ordinance's rules for group homes required further review, but he did not consider any potential changes needed to be "something of an urgent nature."

Residents within the municipal boundaries of Martinsburg and the Town of Hedgesville will not have an opportunity to vote on the land-use ordinances. Both municipalities already have adopted zoning ordinances but do not have the county's proposed transferable development rights (TDR) regulations.

The county's proposed zoning ordinance includes guidelines and restrictions for the location of kennels, adult entertainment venues, halfway houses, motor vehicle racetracks, mobile home parks and telecommunication towers/antennas, among other types of development. A new strip club, for example, would be limited to industrial-zoned districts and not permitted within 1,000 feet of any land used for residential purposes or a church, library, park or school, according to the February draft of the ordinance.

According to the March draft of the TDR ordinance, the purpose of the land-use regulation is to encourage the preservation of natural resources, such as agricultural lands, by allowing "the transfer of development potential from a site in an area outside the growth boundary (or sending area) to one inside the growth area (or receiving area)."

In addition to providing rules for new development, the zoning ordinance also provides protection for legal uses of property that would have been established before the enactment of the zoning rules and also do not conform to the new standards.

The proposed land-use regulations, however, do not protect existing temporary signs that fail to conform with the new regulations. Such signage would be removed within a year after the ordinance is made effective.

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More information about the zoning and transferable development rights (TDR) ordinances on the primary election ballot is available at www.berkeleycountycomm.org.

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