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Horses, deer to have place amid new homes

July 02, 2006|by CANDICE BOSLEY

SHEPHERDSTOWN, W.VA. - With huge ears and unflinching curiosity, the young deer stared at the green SUV from behind a tangle of foliage, acting as if it never had seen such a thing before.

It might not have, and if the three men developing a piece of land a couple of miles outside Shepherdstown have their way, deer, turkey and other wildlife will continue to outnumber people in the planned community, named The Crofts at Shepherdstown.

Peter S. Corum, Ed Slonaker and Tim Hafer decided not to try to crunch town houses or a multitude of single-family homes on the former 169-acre dairy farm.

"I don't know that we consider ourselves true developers," said Corum, whose house is being built on the community's largest lot, at 33 acres.

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Hafer is a real estate agent in the Eastern Panhandle. Corum is a mortgage consultant. Slonaker owns a wealth management company.

Instead of cramming homes on the land, the three created 16 lots, ranging in size from four to 33 acres. They do not plan to level the rolling hills. For roads, they're following paths created by those who once farmed the land. No existing trees will be cut down, but hundreds more will be planted, including some along the property's roads.

"It's a totally preserved neighborhood," Corum said.

As its centerpiece, the property will have a 9.5-acre park, an equestrian center that includes a lighted rink and more than three miles of horse-riding trails.

The community also will have security and gated access.

Saddles instead of golf clubs

Developing a community based around horses - such as The Crofts - is a national trend. Such premier communities are popping up around the country, from California and Arizona, North Carolina and Florida, to the New England region.

It used to be that those who wanted to play in their community built along a golf course. Recently, though, saddles are replacing golf clubs as equestrian communities supplant golfing communities, Corum said.

At The Crofts, property owners can build a stable on their lot, or keep their horse or horses in a community barn. A 160-foot-by-80-foot former cow barn is being converted into the community barn, and former milking rooms will become tack rooms and storage spaces.

Four lots have been sold, and a fifth is under contract. Lot prices average between $300,000 and $400,000. Once houses have been built, each property will be worth more than $1 million, Corum said.

A "croft" is a term used in England to describe a small farm.

All three of the developers plan to build homes there, with Corum's already under construction.

The old farmhouse, first built in the late 1800s and added onto in later years, will be taken down to its original size and restored.

Beyond that, Corum said he has no definite plans for the home, which is on his lot.

Rocks and trees

Recently, Corum and Slonaker gave a tour of the land. Bumping along in Slonaker's Acura SUV, Corum's excitement elevated when approaching what one day will be Rocky Marsh Park.

It has tall natural rock formations, as well as piles of rocks placed there by farmers, and a wet-weather pond. Trees offer abundant shade, and Corum said his two sons, ages 4 and 1, love to run around the space and are eager to camp there.

Engineers initially planned to cut up the space and include it within various lots, but Corum decided against it.

"It just seemed too nice and too pretty," he said. "We thought everyone should benefit from it."

Corum, who grew up on a 63-acre farm near Shepherdstown, said he and his wife never doubted that they would return to their home county to raise a family.

His wife also grew up in Jefferson County, in the Summit Point area, he said.

The couple does not yet own horses, although Corum said they bought a share of a racehorse. As an aside, he offered a story of what happened when the horse raced for the first time at Charles Town Races & Slots.

His wife placed a bet on the horse, which finished third. When Corum's wife went to claim her winnings, she found out she had placed her money on the right horse number, but for the horse in the preceding race.

The Corums' horse went on to finish in second place in its second race and first place in its third race, Corum said.

Back at The Crofts, Corum said the community's roads should be done within four months, followed by the erection of four-rail fencing and planting of trees. Corum said he hopes the equestrian center will be finished by next December.

The developers paid nearly $1.5 million for the land last year.

Property investors are being discouraged.

"We wanted a true community," Corum said. "We didn't want cookie-cutter houses. We didn't want people coming in and flipping property."

A list of approved builders will be provided to potential buyers, although using one on the list isn't required. All houses must be custom-built and constructed within one year.

House plans must be approved by an architectural review committee to ensure all homes are in tune with the "landscape's vernacular," Corum said.

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