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Farmland board to discuss future of Boydville

June 28, 2007|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Nearly 18 months have passed since the parklike grounds of the historic Boydville estate in Martinsburg were protected from development, but officials still are trying to decide what the 13-acre property's future use will be.

"I really have no comment about that," said Martinsburg Mayor George Karos, who presided over the Martinsburg City Council's decision in late 2005 to contribute $750,000 of the $2.25 million spent to essentially stop a housing project proposed for the property at 601 S. Queen St.

With the city's help, the Berkeley County Farmland Protection Board purchased the property in December 2005, but Karos said city leaders have left the fate of the property's future use up to the property's owners.

Lavonne Paden, executive director of the Farmland Protection Board, said several people have presented options for the property's use, but the decision yet to be made is whether the land will remain publicly owned or be sold the highest bidder, presumably a private party.

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"There's a lot of different players," said Paden, who anticipates more discussion about Boydville's future at tonight's farmland protection board meeting at 7 p.m. in the Berkeley County Commission chambers at 400 W. Stephen St.

Paden said she believes city leaders, along with the Berkeley County Commission and advocates for historic preservation and open space, all have an interest.

Don C. Wood, a leading member of the Berkeley County Historical Society and the county's landmarks commission, said Wednesday that both groups support the property's preservation. But Wood said the historical society hasn't taken an official position on what should be done with the circa-1812 manor house, barn and outbuildings that were spared from torching during the Civil War by direct order of President Lincoln.

Bonnie Rockie, president of ArtBerkeley Inc., a nonprofit artists organization, said she plans to ask county leaders on July 5 to support a plan to establish an artisan craft center at Boydville, modeling it after a Brookfield, Conn., organization and the Mansion House Art Center at City Park in Hagerstown.

In a presentation to members of the farmland protection board, Rockie said she already indicated that she would ask county leaders to allocate a portion of the hotel/motel tax that normally is diverted to the convention and visitors bureau for the initiative to bring more tourists to the city.

Rockie said a partnership with parks and recreation officials to share use of the grounds also could work "well together."

"I think its a good project," Rockie said.

Steve Catlett, executive director of the Martinsburg-Berkeley County Parks & Recreation Board, said Wednesday that he has been part of informal conversations that have included suggestions that the board take control of the property.

"I think there's a lot of people out there that think it (could be) a nice park," Catlett said.

But Catlett said that the parks and recreation officials still struggle at times to manage what they already have and would want to exercise a great deal of caution before increasing their workload.

Catlett said the parks and recreation board's directors have not taken any action or publicly discussed the issue.

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