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Woodbridge-area rezoning tabled

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- About 100 residents of the Woodbridge subdivision left the Municipal Planning Commission meeting somewhat dissatisfied Wednesday after board members tabled their attempt to block a proposed townhouse development nearby.

The group, led by neighbor and City Council member Shannon Snodgrass, have asked the city to rezone a 95-acre site known as the Cannady Tract from R-6 (medium density residential) to R-4 (single family residential). The rezoning would prevent developer Allen Bell from building up to 120 duplex units -- 240 homes -- on the property, which lies adjacent to Woodbridge.

More than 270 residents from the 240 to 250 single-family homes in Woodbridge signed petitions in favor of the rezoning request, said Snodgrass. She held a community meeting at Ruffner Elementary School about a month ago after learning about the proposed project.

City Planning Director Dan Vriendt said he needed more time to study the issue before he could make a recommendation to the commission.

"As far back as I could see, we've never had a rezoning [request] brought by someone other than the property owner," Vriendt said. "It's very unusual. There are a lot of legal issues involved."

The city is also in the midst of writing a new comprehensive plan, which will include a new land-use plan, Vriendt said, and he wants to check with consultants on how the rezoning might fit with those plans.

Although the commission tabled the rezoning, chairman Gerry Workman let residents in the standing-room-only crowd comment about the proposal.

Lawyer Elliot Hicks said the new homes would overburden roads, schools and sewage systems. Rezoning to R-4 "would allow single-family housing, and wouldn't provide the same burden on the infrastructure as R-6," he said.

Woodbridge is one of the largest neighborhoods in Charleston, Snodgrass said. "[The Cannady Tract] is the last undeveloped property and should be developed in the same pattern. The loss of value to our homes has been estimated at 30 percent."

Ray Lovejoy, an attorney for the Cannady Tract owners, said the heirs of former owner Allen Thompson are not unsympathetic.

"It comes back to property rights," Lovejoy said. "We have a piece of property zoned a certain way. I think it goes against the American way to tell another person what to do with their property."

"What we have is the NIMBY syndrome -- not in my backyard," he said with an increasingly hostile crowd behind him. "On the face of it, that's discrimination."

While action on the rezoning request will wait at least a month, city officials are studying Bell's subdivision application, which the Planning Commission will also consider. Bell will have to provide detailed sewage and storm-water plans, and city engineers will weigh traffic issues, Vriendt said.

Later, Snodgrass sounded satisfied with the commission's decision. "The good news is they didn't turn it down," she said.

People who bought homes in Woodbridge always figured the Cannady property would be developed in a similar manner, with single-family homes, Snodgrass said.

"It needs to fit. Nobody would object to single-family. It doesn't make sense to make 400 residents sit back and tolerate that."

In other business Wednesday, Planning Commission members approved:

* Preliminary site plans for six more developable lots on Yorkshire Drive, off Nottingham Road in Sherwood Forest.

* Major Development of Significant Impact plans for CAMC's proposed cancer center at the former Watt Powell ballpark site at 3415 MacCorkle Avenue.

Reach Jim Balow at balow@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5102.


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