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Bankruptcy muddles rules on bonds

November 30, 1999|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. ? A developer's bankruptcy filing appears to have poked a hole in the Berkeley County Planning Commission's rules on bonds to ensure work is done correctly.

Lawsuits now are likely because a subdivision was left substandard, according to the county's legal counsel.

Acting on the advice of attorney Norwood Bentley III, Berkeley County Planning Commissioners on Monday night gave their president the authority to revoke what remains of bonds for four sections of Apple Knolls Estates subdivision, a project by Robert Petry of Hedgesville, W.Va., and John E. Petry of Martinsburg and their company, Apple Knolls LLC.

"If we can't finish it with those moneys ... then I'd say it's open season on the developer by the landowners," said Bentley, who also anticipates a lawsuit being filed on behalf of the county. He wasn't sure exactly how any legal action filed would be affected by the bankruptcy filing by the developers.

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One couple concerned about unfinished paving and storm-water management work in their development left the meeting Monday visibly upset.

In a memo to the Planning Commission, Assistant County Engineer Steve D. Aberegg said the remaining bonds in place for two sections of what was envisioned to be a 246-unit single-family development were "most certainly insufficient." Altogether, county officials revoked $664,00 in bond money.

Bentley, who toured the site, said he was convinced the amount of work that still needs to be done was "pretty extensive."

Bentley doesn't blame the residents who purchased property there for being upset and believes the situation exposes flaws in the county's bonding process.

Bonds have been set in the past for projects based on cost estimates at the time and then are not being updated to reflect inflation or other market changes, such as the cost of concrete because of demand.

Even before the county's subdivision regulations are revised, Bentley said he might advise the Planning Commission to move forward with a proposal that the bonds be reviewed every 12 to 18 months.

"We've got to fix this," Bentley said.

In June 2007, Planning Commissioners were told that homes were left unfinished and street signs had yet to be installed in the development, which is on the north side of Dry Run Road near Ridge Road, west of Interstate 81.

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