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Initial phase of large subdivision approved in Berkeley Co.

July 11, 2006|by MATTHEW UMSTEAD

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - A developer proposing what might be Berkeley County's largest subdivision to date - approximately 1,600 homes on 361 acres - won preliminary plat approval Monday night for the first phase of 135 homes.

The Berkeley County Planning Commission voted to approve the plat for The Villages at Rolling Hills presented by John Petry, managing member and owner of American Homes by United Builders LLC.

Commissioner Richard Talbott was the lone dissenter, but his concerns about the impact of another residential development on Berkeley County were reiterated by practically every neighbor of the project's first 43-acre phase off U.S. 11 and Martha Drive near the Pikeside community.

"I hate to be part of the disaster, frankly," Talbott said at one point during a public hearing, which featured impassioned pleas from property owners concerned about the project's impact on the school system, traffic congestion and their own property. Commissioner Gary Poling was absent and commissioner H. Daniel Gantt left the meeting before the vote was taken after more than an hour of discussion.

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Though opposed, Talbott commended Petry for his planned donation of 20 acres for a new Faith Christian Academy high school, another 5 acres for an emergency services station, and a community center featuring tennis courts and other amenities.

"You've done a lot more than most developers," Talbott said.

Petry said the community center was financed with the first phase of the project, which would be accessed from U.S. 11 via a dual boulevard named Hotchkiss Drive. Turn lanes along U.S. 11 are expected to be added at the entrance.

Automotive repair business owner Tim Feltner told the commission he was concerned about stormwater management, especially since he already had problems with flooding nearby.

"If it's not done properly, I'm going to be to be working on boats instead of cars," Feltner told commissioners.

Taking time to respond to each concern, Petry said his stormwater management plan for the first phase would feature aerated ponds, instead of dry basins that sometimes are prone to invite conditions for mosquito breeding.

Petry repeatedly said he is hoping to have utilities buried underground near the entrance of the development instead of having poles relocated and indicated a willingness to pay for the expense.

"We try to plan smart and we plan to develop smart," said Petry, noting he had been working on the project for more than two years.

Petry also noted he has offered to improve access to the residential development on the south side by constructing a road from the proposed Novak Drive extended to the new Tablers Station Business Park, but "unless the (Berkeley County) Development Authority comes to their senses," that wouldn't happen.

"You're correct, we're building a mini-city today," Petry said in response to one resident's question as to whether he would be incorporating the development.

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