Public hearings underway on proposed zoning revamp for Martinsburg

West Virginia

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. (WDVM) — The City of Martinsburg kicked off a series of public hearings Thursday on a sweeping revision to its zoning ordinance. The proposal could dramatically change the way people live and work.

The first in a series of well-attended public hearings are underway at city hall. Critics of the new plan see it as a “wild-kingdom” free-for-all where commercial interests can establish themselves pretty much anywhere in the city’s five wards.

Barbara Bratina is a concerned citizen who takes issue with the plan that “many of these businesses are allowed in what are currently existing residential single-family and mixed housing type neighborhoods.”

For downtown merchants, that is troubling: the city is trying to help those businesses stage a comeback from the pandemic’s economic downturn, but citywide, there are broader concerns.

Donna Zeck is prepared to tell city officials that she is “concerned about stresses on resources like police, EMS, water, sewer, water pressure. all of these things that can happen.”

Critics also say that only property owners were given public notice of the hearings, where more than half of Martinsburg residents rent their homes. Besides, there is worry about holding a public hearing in a crowded council chamber when Covid concerns linger. The bottom line, says Bratina, is that Martinsburg’s zoning laws have an advantage that Berkeley County currently lacks.

“Berkeley County has no zoning,” said Bratina. “So there’s no protection for people who live in the county. That’s why people directly choose to move into Martinsburg.”

Martinsburg’s city council could resolve this issue as early as this month or next, but some speculate it could take many more months. The City of Martinsburg says it hopes to attract more property owners and lower the rate of vacant housing under the new plan.

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