Boydville protected from development

December 29, 2005|by CANDICE BOSELY


Standing on a crooked welcome mat atop the steps of the 1812 manor house in Martinsburg known as Boydville, state Sen. John Unger announced Wednesday afternoon that the 13-acre property will be protected from development.

It's something Mayor George Karos admitted he never expected to happen.

"In 18 days believe it or not, in 18 days there was some $2.25 million dollars raised," Karos said during the press conference, which also featured in attendance members of the Berkeley County Farmland Preservation Board and City Council.

The property now is owned by the Farmland Preservation Board. Next year, public input will be sought on how to use the property, which could remain publicly owned and used for events like weddings and public garden space, or could be resold to a private owner.


Either way, a conservation easement will be put in place to ensure the land is never developed, said Unger, D-Berkeley.

The property was purchased from The Rector Companies, a Virginia-based development company, using $1.5 million from the Farmland Preservation Board and a City Council grant of $750,000 to that board.

Since September, when plans to build 120 town houses and condominiums on the property were submitted, developing Boydville has been the source of controversy.

Petitions circulated

To accommodate an above-capacity crowd, extra folding chairs had to be set up during a City Council meeting when Boydville was on the agenda.

And, behind the scenes, Unger was gathering the parties involved to try to find a solution.

The finale came with the announcement, which included a photo shoot and ceremonial deed-signing inside the historic manor house.

LaRue Frye, who bought the property in 1992 and used it in part as a bed and breakfast, gave impromptu tours. She pointed out a rare wallpaper mural in one room, chandeliers from France, box door locks made by an English king's locksmith and the original cooking arm in a fireplace off the kitchen.

"Supposedly this is the oldest bathroom in Martinsburg," she said of a full downstairs bathroom.

In the kitchen is a unique item once used to summon servants. A member of the household could push a button in a room, which would ring a bell on the box, while an arrow on the box's face would point to the room from which the bell sounded.

The list of rooms on the device's face sounds like the setup from the board game "Clue:" Parlor, Library, Study, Sun Parlor, Dining Room, Green Room, Wine Room, Front Door and - three times - simply "Mrs. Faulkner," the owner at that time.

Jim Moore, president of the Farmland Preservation Board, said he grew up as a "dirt-poor farm boy" who walked around barefoot.

"My mother would flip over in her grave if she saw me here," Moore said as he stood inside one of the manor house's elegant rooms.

"I'm overwhelmed," he said.

Farmland Preservation Board Vice President Clint Hogbin grew up in Berkeley County but had never before been inside Boydville.

"It helps you understand the mystique of Boydville" he said of finally seeing its interior.

Managing the estate is important, Hogbin said, saying the public must and will be consulted on how to best use Boydville.

"We've got a lot of work ahead of us. It doesn't stop here," Hogbin said.

Hogbin brought with him his wife and two children, including his 9-year-old son Shawn, who kept tabs on the effort to preserve the land.

"Everyday I'd come home from work and my son would say, Did we save Boydville yet? (I'd respond), I don't know buddy," Hogbin said.

Asked his opinion of the house as he stood at the foot of a grand staircase, Shawn said simply "Good."

"I think it's interesting the way it looks," he added with prodding.

'The right path to take'

Noah Mehrkam, with The Rector Companies, said the company decided to sell Boydville to demonstrate its willingness to work with the community. The company still hopes to develop property in Martinsburg, although no specific projects have been tackled, he said.

Karos extended a public "thank you" to the company.

"I hope we have not offended or affected our friendship," Karos said, referring to the controversy surrounding the company's plans to develop Boydville.

After City Council members rejected a plan in November to build town houses and condominiums, earlier this month The Rector Companies submitted a new plan to build 54 duplexes and eight single-family homes on the property.

City officials have said that plan likely would have been approved because it complied with the city's zoning ordinance, while the plan to build town houses and condominiums did not.

Karos said preserving Boydville "was the right path to take."

He projected tourism will increase as people visit Martinsburg to see the house and other historic sites in the area.

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