WEIRTON - The owners of a property off North 10th Street came up short Tuesday in their bid for a conditional use permit to timber the site when the Zoning Board of Appeals failed to even bring the matter to a vote.
Margaret Valuska of 633 Titus St., representing the owners, said it was the fourth time they've applied for the permit, "and each time the concerns that were brought up we've tried to address and correct."
"They asked all their questions, we do all this work but they put their heads down," she said. "If there was a legitimate reason, we would understand. But (it was just) lack of a motion, they wouldn't even take a vote."
APPEAL VOWED — Consulting forester John Bell of Pine Grove, W.Va., discusses a proposed timbering operation off North 10th Street Tuesday with members of Weirton’s Zoning Board of Appeals. The board chose not to bring the matter to a vote, prompting its owners to promise an appeal. -- Linda Harris
Creekside Logging of Farmington, Ohio, had applied for the permit to timber the property, located roughly from North 10th Street to the Kings Creek area. A representative said the proposal called for an 18-inch stump limit and no clear-cutting, with "approximately 30 percent of the trees" targeted.
Valuska had told the board they "aren't trying to hurt anybody's property, we're just trying to generate some income off property we pay taxes on every year."
"Please bring it to a vote and give us the permit so we can get it timbered, responsibly timbered," she'd urged the board.
Neighboring property owners, however, had urged the board to consider how the timbering operation would impact them.
Christine Pearson, 240 Lakeview Drive, said she and her neighbors were "really afraid the hillside is going to come down" if trees on the hillside above them are harvested.
"Who would be responsible for damages to our houses and properties?" she asked.
Helen Jackson Gillison, 264 Lakeview Drive, said right now "there's nothing above me but trees and hillside."
"I want to protect my property," she said.
Ward 2 Councilman Chuck Wright and resident Charlie Dodd also registered their opposition, but in writing.
Valuska, though, had insisted timbering wouldn't pose a danger to other properties. On the advice of a consulting forester, John Bell of Pine Grove, W.Va., she said they'd moved the timberline back to allay any concerns that timbering could cause erosion.
Bell, who also addressed the zoning board, said that with the timberline moved, "there should be no problem down there with erosion."
Another property owner pointed out that some cutting is essential to maintaining a healthy forest.
"If you don't take out diseased trees...sooner or later they'll all come down," he said.
Board members, however, remained silent when Chairman Vince Azzarello called for a motion. That refusal to consider it means the property owners cannot bring the request back to the zoning board for at least a year unless the project is substantially altered.
Rather than wait, Valuska said they'll appeal the decision to Circuit Court.
"We're going to appeal it," Valuska vowed. "I'm very frustrated. It's not fair, it's not right...We've done everything they asked us to change - we changed the egress, we've changed the timberline."
Azzarello said after the meeting it was a "difficult situation."
"They want to harvest their property," he said. "But there's just too many other residents who would potentially be impacted."
He said the potential impact to neighboring properties "is the driving force" behind the board's reluctance to permit the operation.
"We have a responsibility to all the residents, to others who are potentially going to be affected," Azzarello said. "We have a responsibility to look at their views, too."
(Harris can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)