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Historical district sparks little interest

January 06, 2009|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - A Monday night public hearing held to consider input on a proposal to expand a zoning district in Martinsburg where demolition and exterior changes to buildings are restricted attracted little interest.

The only comments came from members of the Historic Preservation Review Commission (HPRC) who held the hearing and who have worked on the expansion proposal for about two years.

If adopted through an ordinance enacted by Martinsburg City Council, the expansion would add more than 30 blocks to the city's historic preservation overlay district, including Aspen Hall, a French and Indian War-era estate where George Washington attended a wedding, and Boydville, an 1812 mansion saved from an almost certain fiery end by Abraham Lincoln.

"Our main interest is trying to preserve what we have here in Berkeley County and in Martinsburg," said Commission chairman Don C. Wood.

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Before final approval by the city council, the proposal must clear a number of steps, including a public hearing by the city's planning commission, which also would consider a zoning map amendment.

Even before that, the city council is expected to provide a preliminary review of a HPRC study that includes the historical significance of buildings and other structures and sites in the expanded area, and a map of the revised district, according to procedural guidelines in place.

The council then can return the study to the HPRC for additional revision and review or give tentative approval.

"I'm estimating six months (for) the end of this process," City Planner Tracy Smith told commissioners.

Ward 4 Councilman Roger Lewis, who attended the hearing with former Mayor Earnest Sparks, said after leaving council chambers Monday evening that what is proposed "makes sense."

"They haven't overdone it," Lewis said of the expansion, which includes the 500 block of West Burke Street where he lives.

The West Burke Street block was deemed to be the "most outstanding" of any in the city, Wood said of a previous review of Martinsburg by a historical expert many years ago.

While there are no "Mount Vernons" in Martinsburg, board member Nancy Snider said the city does have different types of historic neighborhoods, built for affluent and working people, that are consistent in architectural styles.

"It's important that we save as many different kinds of neighborhoods as possible," Snider said.

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