homepage logo

Munro’s application struck down

By Staff | Oct 8, 2010

A local’s application to build a residence along Town Run, off Bones Wright Road, was denied by the Shepherdstown Planning Commission Monday due to failure to comply with the town’s Parking and Zoning ordinance.

Roger Munro’s plan to build along the river has been put on hold for various reasons, but the Commission finally made the decision to deny him a building permit because he wanted to put parking for the residence in front of the home.

“I knew that that was going to happen because of the reason it was denied,” Munro said.

The town’s ordinance, 9-207-II (b), states, “No parking space may be located in a front yard. This does not prohibit parking in a driveway.”

Munro, a former Planning Commission president himself, said while he knew the plans didn’t go along with the ordinance, it was the most conducive place to put the lot. He said he could put it in the backyard, but there would be little access to it.

“It would be nobody’s first choice in terms to parking,” Munro said. “And I want the backyard to remain as natural as possible.”

Harvey Heyser, Shepherdstown zoning officer, agreed about the location but said that the Commission must do its job.

“The location where (the) application showed, it might be the best location, but the Commission doesn’t have the ability to grant approval,” he said.

Munro has the ability to appeal the Commission’s decision within 45 days of receiving a notice of decision from the town. Heyser said that it won’t take long to draft and deliver the notice.

Munro will be able to appeal to the Board of Zoning Appeals, which Heyser said will consider ordinances but does consider special circumstances. And Munro believes his is a unique situation because of the layout of the land – which slopes down to the Town Run where the back of the house will be, with two decks overlooking the ravine.

Munro first took his application to the Commission in June.

“It has been a very long, drawn out and extremely expensive process to bring this process possibly to a close,” Munro said.

The Town Run resident’s application was first presented under the town’s new floodplain ordinance. It then had to be determined if Munro was planning on building in the floodplain, which is on the site. However, he is building above the floodplain’s location.

At the Planning Commission’s special meeting on Monday, Heyser said that the updated site plans had moved the residence slightly uphill from Town Run, even farther from the floodplain.

On Sept. 27, the town brought in Robert Denton, senior geologist at GeoConcepts Engineering, Inc., to perform a site walkover and observe the location. Munro is building on an old landfill which slopes down into the ravine where Town Run streams through. There is also much vegetation in the area.

Denton’s findings involved somewhat unstable slopes which he believed would be disturbed through tree removal. He also stated in his report that testing should be done because of potential hazardous materials on the site from the landfill days.

Denton’s recommendations include:

Performing chemical tests on the site since it is “assumed to contain hazardous materials.”

The chemical analysis should include testing for metals – such as lead, mercury and cadmium – and poly-aromatic hydrocarbons, some of which could be carcinogenic substances.

The construction plan should be specifically laid out in the building permit application to address sediment and erosion control as well as excavated landfill material.

Ways of constraining the excavations onsite needs to also be laid out in the site plans by the applicant’s civil engineer, which is Alpha Associates out of Martinsburg. This is so sediment doesn’t erode into the Town Run from the slope.

Mature trees should not be removed to not only protect the roots but to ensure stability of the slopes along Bones Wright Street, formerly Rocky Street).

However, Heyser pointed out that it seemed as if some trees closer to Bones Wright Street would be removed in order to construct the home. There are more mature trees closer to Town Run that Heyser said he is unsure about their removal since Munro had adjusted the location of the house a bit.

“We tried Monday evening to pin that down and got somewhat inconclusive answers,” he said.

He added, “Mr Munro, both he and his wife, have been consistent in their statments that thye want to keep as many trees as they can on site.”

As far as building on a possible hazardous site, Munro said his and laborers’ safety, as well as the well being of the Town Run, is of the utmost importance to him.

“I will caution for myself and others during the building process to ensure it’s a place I want to live,” he said.

Though Munro’s permit was denied due parking on site, one neighbor opposes Munro’s project for other reasons.

Patrinka Kelch owns a property adjacent to Munro on Town Run, south of where he hopes to build if he receives a permit.

“During the excavation of the landfill, material will turn up toxins such as lead and hydrocarbons and other toxins that are carcinogenic,” Kelch said in a statement she submitted to The Chronicle.

But Munro continues to stand behind his statement that he plans on doing this as safely as possible.

“Am I going to be cautious? You better believe I’m going to be cautious,” Munro said at the regularly scheduled Planning Commission meeting on Sept. 20.

Now Munro will prepare to appeal the Commission’s decision.

“It’s not impossible,” Heyser said about the possibility of Munro’s appeal being successful. “As you can see from the site, I would want the parking here (in front).”

But Munro said if the BZA doesn’t grant him the ability to place his parking in front of the residence, then he will readjust his plans to accommodate parking in “an area I would rather leave natural.”

Munro’s attempt to be approved for a building permit will continue.

“Anything that takes four months is doing a disservice to the applicant,” Munro said.