WINFIELD, WV (LOOTPRESS) – In a zoning dispute one attorney has likened to a game of “Whack-a-Mole,” Putnam County Circuit Judge Philip Stowers has ordered a show cause hearing next month. The judge’s order suspended any further action on the rezoning attempt until the judge can review it.
Allegations of favoritism have surrounded the proposed rezoning of portions of Mount Vernon Road near Hurricane for some time. Property owners at 1006 and 1012 Mount Vernon Road are seeking to have those properties changed from Single Family Residential (R-1) to Suburban Commercial (C-1). The locations are in unincorporated areas of what is usually called Teays Valley. The area is unincorporated, thus falling under county jurisdiction.
Linda Tennant and Fred Mader, two residents near the areas in dispute, are seeking either a Writ of mandamus or a Writ of prohibition to stop the rezoning completely. They named County Commissioners Ron Foster, C. Brian Ellis and R. Andrew Skidmore as defendants.
The properties involved in the dispute are owned by and the rezoning is being requested by Timothy and N. Dawn Spradling.
As argued by the plaintiffs, this matter goes back to at least 2014. According to the plaintiff’s attorneys, every time residents “whack” an effort to rezone, the property owners simply reapply. In the process, they have consistently refused to take advantage of rights to appeal the decisions. No other residents of the road has ever voiced support for rezoning.
On the current and fifth try, the planning commission had recommended county commission approval of the change. That was scheduled to be acted upon July 29 but Stowers’ order blocked that from happening.
The Tennant-Maden petition sets forth three grounds for issuance of a rule to show cause and ultimately the requested Writ(s): (1) The petition is not properly brought because neither the Putnam County Planning Commission nor fifty percent (50%) or more of affected property owners originated the petition in violation of West Virginia Code § 8A-7-9; (2) the Putnam County Commission is estopped or barred from reconsidering a rezoning request it previously denied on the merits where no appeal of any of the earlier decisions was taken; and (3) approval of the rezoning request would be arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion, and clearly wrong.
Stowers goes on to write, “West Virginia Code § 53-1-5 provides that the court shall issue a rule to show cause why a petition for writ of mandamus or prohibition should not be awarded against a defendant when ‘the petition makes a prima facie case.’
Stowers then writes that Tennant and Mader “have made a prima facie case that they may be entitled to a writ of mandamus and/or prohibition.”
Petitioners also requested that proceedings before the Putnam
County Commission be suspended pending the court’s final decision and Stowers granted that request.
The order, in essence, places the burden on the county commission to show why the judge should not issue the writ of mandamus and/or prohibition as requested.
In so ruling, the judge set an evidentiary hearing for 2 p.m., September 10, at the Winfield courthouse.
Attorneys Debra Price of Cross Lanes and Dennis Taylor of Huntington are representing Tennant and Made.