Tuesday evening the Town of Berryville Planning Commission met for the first time in 2012 and took care of some internal business as well a blight abatement issue that has been crawling through the Town government for the past five months.
The Commission opened the new year by nominating and voting on chair, vice-chair, and secretary, positions for 2012. Douglas B. Shaffer, Jr was voted in as returning chair. Robert Ferrebee, vice-chair for 2011, told fellow commissioners that he planned to step down from the Commission in August so, Linda Tyler Canterbury was nominated and voted in as vice-chair and Town Planner Christy Dunkle retained the position of Secretary.
There was no new business for the group however a lingering issue related to a blight abatement effort at 23 Josephine Street needed to be revisited.
At the November 22, 2011 meeting the Planning Commision voted to forward a blight abatement plan for the property to the Town Council for their consideration and action. Since the plan for blight abatement at the property in question would be to demolish the structures, the Town staff reviewed the motion and found that it did not include language from the Town Code that requires specific criteria to be met. The Town Code states that the Planning Commission needs to determine whether:
– the property is blighted
– the owner has failed to cure the blight or present a reasonable plan to do so
– the plan for the repair or other disposition of the property is in accordance with the Town’s comprehensive plan, zoning ordinance and any other applicable land use regulations; and
– the property is located in an area listed on the National Register of Historic Places
All of these issues were determined in the November meeting however the motion passed by the Commission did not include specific references to these requirements. Consequently the Town staff recommended the Commission make a revised motion that included the specific language from the Town Code.
Chair Doug Schaffer once again recused himself from the proceedings. Schaffer bid on the property in question when it last went up for auction and throughout the process has recused himself to avoid any possibility of a conflict of interest in the proceedings. The revised motion was made by Commission member Kim Kemp and was seconded by Bob Ferrebee. The motion passed unanimously.
The Town is taking a very meticulous approach to this case because it will be the first instance where the Town will be forced to demolish a property and charge the owner for the costs. In August, the commission held a public hearing to receive comments about the plan and several residents of Josephine Street appealed to the commission to spare the property. In response, the commission gave the owner, Mr William Woodruff, three months to come up with a blight abatement plan. Mr Woodruff did not respond to the commission within that 3 month period so the process continued. With the resubmit and a December commission meeting that was canceled, the owner has had a total of five months of additional time to address the matter yet has still not taken any action. Town Planner Christy Dunkle said at the Tuesday meeting that Mr Woodruff has not contacted the Town regarding the issue.
The revised action will be forwarded to town council for review at their Feb 14th meeting.