I-81 sewer project could bring building boom

January 20, 1999|By BRYN MICKLE

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - The expansion of sewer lines into southeastern Berkeley County will open up the potential for at least 2,000 new homes in the Inwood area, officials said.

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Construction is expected to begin this summer on a three-phase sewer project along the Interstate 81 corridor between Martinsburg and the Virginia border, said Walt Sebert.

Sebert, the general manager of the Berkeley County Public Service Sewer District, said the project will allow industrial growth alongside I-81 with housing developments expected to fill what Sebert described as "thousands of acres of open land."

With several hundred failing septic systems in that region, Sebert said the 60 miles of new sewer lines will solve a potential health problem and will allow builders to construct more homes.


Septic fields require two acres per home, but housing developments serviced by sewer lines can build single-family homes on as little as a quarter-acre, said Inwood developer Roger Ayers.

Ayers said he expects 300 to 400 new homes in the $80,000 to $100,000 price range could be built in the Inwood area within two to five years of construction of the sewer lines.

"That area is really going to blossom as long as the economy stays strong," he said.

Along with the new homes will likely come an influx of strip malls, fast food restaurants and an assortment of residential services such as banks and doctors offices, said Inwood Realtor and state Del. Larry Faircloth, R-Berkeley.

Faircloth said it would be "purely speculative" to predict the number of new homes that will be built in the Inwood area, but he expects much of the commercial growth to occur near the I-81 interchange in Inwood.

Increased traffic congestion in the Inwood area will need to be alleviated by widening stretches of W.Va. 11 and W.Va. 51, he said.

The $70 million sewer project will provide sewer lines along 16 of the 24 miles of I-81 passing through Berkeley County, Sebert said.

About five to seven miles of I-81 already have sewer lines nearby and plans are in the works to expand lines from Martinsburg to the Maryland border, he said.

The key to ensuring commercial and industrial growth anywhere in Berkeley County will be the availability of both sewer and water, said Berkeley County Development Authority Executive Director Robert T. Crawford.

"Sewers will certainly help, but we also need to have adequate water and water treatment capacity," he said.

Defining "adequate" will be difficult, according to Berkeley County Public Service District General Manager Dan Campbell.

The county's water capacity of 3 million gallons a day is about 1 million more than it currently needs, and Campbell said the capacity will meet the added needs created by the sewer system.

A large industry that uses a lot of water, however, could easily sap that capacity, he said.

Campbell said it is possible to expand water capacity to 4 million gallons a day, but that would require a guarantee that a specific industry was coming in to use the water.

"It has to be a wait-and-see approach," he said. "You can't expand the capacity and not have the growth come. Then how do you pay for it?"

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