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Martinsburg residents concerned about bypass

January 29, 2000|By DAVE McMILLION

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - For some Martinsburg area residents, being in the path of a proposed bypass around town is nothing to get alarmed about - yet.

Area residents said discussions about building a bypass around Martinsburg have been going on for 20 years, and they have become used to it.

"I may not be here by the time they come through there," said Brian Strobridge, who lives in the Keller's Addition subdivison, located off Eagle School Road. It is one of several subdivisions off Eagle School Road north of Martinsburg that could be affected by the construction of the bypass.

Others include nearby Skylin Park and Opequon Meadows, according to plans from the state Division of Highways.

Mark Roby, who lives in Skylin Park, said people in the subdivision do not seem too concerned about the bypass because no one knows where the road will go.

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During a public meeting last Monday at Berkeley Heights Elementary School, Division of Highways officials showed the public four possible routes for the road, which will range in cost from $78 million to $106 million and be up to six miles long.

Some residents are worried about what lies ahead.

John Carr said he had his first experience dealing with the Division of Highways when department planners were preparing to widen the intersection of East Moler Avenue and Old Shepherdstown Road in front of his house. Carr said the highways department wanted to take out a small piece of property and some hedge in front of his house to make room for the intersection.

Carr said the highways department made him an offer for the property, which he considered too low. They negotiated and the highways department finally settled on $600, Carr said.

The fact the highways department made two different offers makes Carr nervous about whether he is getting the fairest offer in such a deal.

"You don't know if you're being treated fairly or not. That's what concerns me the most," Carr said.

Carr's two-story home across the street from the Shenandoah Valley Medical System clinic is in the path of two of the proposed routes for the bypass. He assumes his house will have to be torn down if one of the two routes is chosen for the road.

Next door, Dennis and Becky Wyckoff do not seem troubled by the possibility of their house being taken for the road. When the couple moved into their house 22 years ago, their real estate agent told them a bypass could come through the property someday, Dennis Wyckoff said.

But the Wyckoffs want to know when the road will be built so they can prepare for possible displacement. Becky Wyckoff said their house needs to be painted, but she does not want to tackle the project if the house is going to be torn down soon.

The Wyckoffs said they asked Division of Highways representatives at last week's meeting when the bypass might be built, but they could not give a firm date.

Highways officials could not say how close the road might come to them, but they told the couple the state would buy the house if it was damaged during construction, Becky Wyckoff said.

Division of Highways spokesman Dave Clevenger said the contract for the project could be awarded late this year or early next year, although no federal funding has been obtained for the work.

Clevenger said the highways department is changing its method of allowing public input into highway projects. It is gathering public comment earlier in the design phase of projects because the agency has been criticized for not allowing enough community input on its work, Clevenger said.

When the department has to acquire property, Clevenger said, it must follow several guidelines. If a house is to be taken for a highway, the department must conduct an appraisal of the house to determine its value, Clevenger said.

The figure the department arrives at is often close to what the house would bring on the open market, Clevenger said.

Residents also worry about noise from the bypass. Several homeowners said they would rather have their houses torn down for the road than have the bypass running near the edge of their property.

"It would be horrendous," said Eleanor Hollis, who figures her house in Skylin Park would be far enough away from the proposed routes to escape the wrecking ball, but not far enough to escape the traffic.

At last week's meeting, highways officials handed out a booklet showing the proposed routes. There are several maps of the routes, including one that outlines possible historic structures that could be affected.

Don Wood of the Berkeley County Historical Society said he was particularly concerned about the Flat Iron Spring Farm, located along Eagle School Road just east of Skylin Park.

The farm, which includes a historic brick house, was surveyed in 1734 and is one of the first settlements in Berkeley County, Wood said.

There are four other properties in the county that may be eligible for inclusion in the National Register of Historic Places and could be affected by one of the four routes. Wood said he is not as concerned about those.

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