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Parkersburg planning commission tables alley request

Property owners disagree over abandonment

Parkersburg resident Brenda Sturm speaks in favor of her petition to have a portion of an unimproved alley adjacent to her Shrewsbury Place home abandoned during a meeting of the Municipal Planning Commission Friday in Parkersburg City Council chambers. (Photo by Evan Bevins)

PARKERSBURG — The Municipal Planning Commission on Friday tabled a request to abandon a portion of an undeveloped alleyway until more information could be gathered on the situation and impact on neighboring property owners.

Parkersburg resident Brenda Sturm petitioned for the abandonment of the 15-foot-wide, grass-covered alleyway next to her 606 Shrewsbury Place house so she could fence in the half of it that would attach to her property.

During Friday’s Planning Commission meeting in Parkersburg City Council chambers, Sturm said she purchased the home in July with the understanding from her real estate agent and the city code director that she could build the fence for her dogs. But after she received a building permit and erected the fence posts, a nearby resident called the code enforcement department. Sturm said city Code Director Bob McClung told her she could not build the fence because the alley was not abandoned.

Sturm said she checked with the city about the fence six days before closing on the house this summer.

“Had he told me no, I would not have purchased the house,” she said.

Parkersburg resident Dale Markley speaks against a petition to abandon part of an unimproved alleyway off Shrewsbury Place between Sixth and Seventh Avenue during a Municipal Planning Commission meeting Friday in Parkersburg City Council chambers. (Photo by Evan Bevins)

McClung, who was not at the meeting, said Friday afternoon he had not told Sturm the alley was abandoned, just what her options were if it was or was not.

“She misunderstood me to start with,” he said.

Dale Markley, who also lives in the 600 block of Shrewsbury Place and owns nearby property in the 700 block of Seventh Avenue, spoke against the petition Friday. He said he was the one who contacted the city about the fence being built.

“That alley allows me to run my trailer back in there” to remove fallen tree limbs, Markley said. “When they had fence posts up, there’s no way you could have (driven) down through there.”

Markley said he could still access the rear of his property by driving through it, but a neighbor, who was not in attendance, can’t access the rear of his property.

Parkersburg Development Director Rickie Yeager asks a question during Friday’s Municipal Planning Commission meeting in City Council chambers. (Photo by Evan Bevins)

Sturm said a structure at the other end of the alley that had not been approved by the city partially blocks the alley. City Planner Mike Rosso and Assistant City Attorney Rob Tebay said they could not confirm that.

Sturm said there is another alley behind her property through which people could access the alley in question. Markley said at 10-feet wide it is too narrow for a truck to negotiate the turn into the other right of way.

Sturm’s neighbor Marshall Bosley said he supported the closure as long as the property was evenly split, which it must be, according to code.

While the Parkersburg Utility Board and city engineering division did not object to the closure, the Planning Division report recommended the alley remain open “to ensure that all residents have equal access to the rear of their lots.”

Markley said it would not make sense to close only a portion of the alley since that would effectively prevent the open portions from being used.

“If they’re going to close it, I want them to close it all,” he said.

Councilman Dave McCrady, a member of the Planning Commission, asked if the entire alley could be closed.

“It’s possible, but it would have to be petitioned to do so,” Rosso said.

Planning commission member Sean Andrews asked if Sturm could request the alley behind her house be abandoned instead. Markley said that would only yield 5 feet of property instead of seven-and-a-half. Sturm did not answer in the meeting.

City Development Director Rickie Yeager, a member of the commission, made a motion to table the item until more information could be gathered, including assessing the impact of closing the entire alley. The motion passed 6-3 with members Eric Gumm, Luke Peters and commission President Charlie Matthews opposed.

In other business, the commission voted 9-0 to approve a request from property owner Brent Steele to release a utility easement behind his 1514 30th St. residence so he can build a garage. No underground utilities are within that area, Rosso said.

Evan Bevins can be reached at ebevins@newsandsentinel.com.

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