Board of Zoning Appeals hears argument

PARKERSBURG – An application to replace and expand the gymnasium at North Parkersburg Baptist Church resulted in arguing and pot-banging Wednesday evening at the Board of Zoning Appeals meeting.

Ron Morris, administrator at the church, requested permission to demolish the current gymnasium on the property due to foundation issues and to replace it with a structure 47 feet wider.

Aside from foundation issues, the steel roof leaks and the gymnasium is not large enough, Morris said. The church plans to extend the building toward Hemlock Avenue, Morris said.

North Christian School also uses the church property for holding classes, said Principal Susan Naylor. The expansion would permit the school to expand its current offerings to include middle school classes up to eighth grade, Naylor said.

The school serves 140 students and their families, Naylor said. The extra building space would serve as classrooms and offices for the school and the church, she said.

Residents of Hemlock Avenue appeared before the board to oppose the request.

Julia Monroe, 3212 Hemlock Ave., said the school’s presence in the neighborhood causes parking problems and that parents fight over where they will park while waiting for their children in the afternoon.

Monroe complained of trash thrown in her yard. Students trespass into her yard during track practice, she said.

A piece of playground equipment described as “a bunch of pots and pans on a string” used as a percussion instrument disturbs the neighborhood when children play, Monroe said.

Jim Knapp of 3105 Hemlock Ave. said the school has grown to encompass three blocks and has become a problem in the neighborhood.

Knapp said that the streets are “only three vehicles wide,” and when parents park on both sides to collect their children, the road becomes difficult to pass. Trucks delivering milk to the school, tour buses and large equipment parking along the sidewalks and streets add to the problem, Knapp said.

The percussion instrument on the playground prevents Knapp and other nearby night shift workers from being able to sleep during the day, Knapp said. The intercom system used on the playground adds to the noise problem, he said.

Elizabeth Knapp of 3105 Hemlock Ave. provided pictures and written petitions citing problems to the Board of Zoning Appeals.

Parking on the sidewalks, students being forced to walk through the streets because of parents illegally parking and the percussion instruments also were cited by Elizabeth Knapp.

At one point during the meeting, she produced a metal saucepan and a metal spoon and banged them together to produce a loud demonstration of the noise residents are forced to hear.

Elizabeth Knapp was asked to silence the pot-banging by zoning board members.

Lydia White, assistant zoning director of Parkersburg, was informed by Monroe that her presence as note-taker at the meeting was a conflict of interest because White is a member of the church, Monroe said. Elizabeth Knapp repeated this statement during her presentation to the board.

Elizabeth Knapp said she and neighbors are prepared to post signs in their yards “telling others what the church is doing.”

After a 20-minute debate, Travis Johnson, a member of the Board of Zoning Appeals, moved to approve the appeal to build a new, expanded gymnasium on the grounds the church perform a survey of the land and install shrubbery for noise reduction. Member Christine Rhodes seconded the motion.

The motion passed by unanimous vote.

Dan Walkup, a member of the Board of Zoning Appeals, told parties if they were unhappy with the decision, they could take the matter to circuit court.

In other business, Robert E. Parrish was given permission by unanimous vote to construct two 50-by-120 foot commercial buildings to be split into six 1,000 square foot sections each and rented to area businesses.

Kendall Enterprises was granted an appeal of the zoning administrator’s decision regarding operation of a wrecker and towing service at 809 Camden Ave. Her appeal was passed by unanimous vote.

Fanelli Boys. Inc. was granted permission to post two illuminated signs on the side walls of its business at 656 Seventh St. by unanimous vote.