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Martinsburg annexation passes first test

April 14, 2000|By DAVE McMILLION, Charles Town

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - A proposed 740-acre annexation by Martinsburg that would increase the size of the city by about 28 percent and open up development on the west side of Interstate 81 received its first round of approval Thursday night.

The Martinsburg City Council approved 10 separate annexation resolutions for the 10 pieces of property that make up the 740 acres.

The next step is to take the proposal to the Berkeley County Commissioners next Thursday and ask them to schedule a public hearing on the annexation, said City Attorney Oakley Seibert.

The County Commissioners must give final approval to annexation requests.

Seibert said he talked to the County Commissioners about the annexation request Thursday and "they seemed positive about it."

The annexation is expected to open up the west side of I-81 between the exits for King and Queen streets to rapid development and build the tax base for the city and county, said County Commissioners President D. Wayne Dunham.

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The east side of the interstate between the King and Queen streets exits has grown quickly within the last decade.

The 10 property owners expect the annexed property to be zoned "business commercial," Seibert said.

The zone would allow business growth similar to the clean industry that has already occurred along the interstate, Seibert said.

"This is not smokestacks," he said.

The council would have to ask the city Planning Commission to consider zoning the area business commercial, Seibert said.

Although Dunham said he expects the west side of I-81 to grow rapidly, one of the largest property owners in the proposed annexation area said he does not have any immediate plans for his land.

Jim Seibert, who runs an orchard in the area, has 223 acres along with his family that would be annexed into the city. He said he is a distant relative of Oakley Seibert.

Prior to Thursday night, city officials declined to identify the owners of the land that would be annexed. During the council meeting, the 10 property owners were named along with the size of their properties. Some properties were as small as two acres while others were dozens of acres.

The 740 acres is largely undeveloped. The city is proposing to extend water service to the area and the county is hoping to expand sewer service there.

The city plans to build a 1.5-million-gallon water storage tank and run 12-inch pipes parallel to the interstate in the area of annexation, City Manager Mark Baldwin said. That project is part of an $18.1 million water and sewer expansion the city is planning along with the Berkeley County and Hedgesville public service districts.

City Council and County Commission members said the annexation could be approved quickly.

If there is no opposition to the annexation during the public hearing, the annexation would be practically "automatic," Dunham said.

Baldwin said earlier this week the annexation and subsequent development "markets our city as a place to be."

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