Apple Knolls files petition against Berkeley County Planning Commission

November 16, 2007|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - The developer of a Berkeley County subdivision that has been criticized by property owners for leaving the residential project vulnerable to storm-water problems is claiming the county planning commission improperly intervened, according to a petition filed this month in circuit court.

A petition filed on behalf of Apple Knolls LLC by attorney Kathy M. Santa Barbara asks the court to reverse an Oct. 1 Berkeley County Planning Commission decision to have the developers' bonds for Apple Knolls Estates pulled because the infrastructure-related work causing the drainage problems was not done.

Norwood Bentley, the county's attorney, said Thursday he was fully prepared to defend the commission's actions

"I see very little merit in (the petition)," Bentley said. "But there's always two sides to everything ..."

Bentley said the county acted appropriately when it gave developers John and Robert Petry a 90-day notice to complete the work at the subdivision off Dry Run Road, west of Interstate 81, or risk losing the bonds they were required to post for the project.


"On the 91st day, the commission called the bond ... because no work was done," Bentley said.

The attorney said he was told by county staff that the development company had filed for bankruptcy and since has learned that was incorrect.

"But that really had nothing to do with it," Bentley said of the commission's decision.

In the petition filed by Santa Barbara, the developers noted the bankruptcy allegations were false, and claimed county officials allowed another developer to install 15-inch ditch lines that violated the plans, which were approved by the planning commission to be 24 inches.

"The problems of which the commission complains ... were of the commission's own creation or were due to the violation by third parties, not the developer ..." said Santa Barbara, who also cited the bankruptcy allegations as being false.

After having the bonds pulled in October, county leaders were expected to have the remaining work at Apple Knolls Estates done by another contractor.

If the bonds weren't sufficient to cover the cost, Bentley in October said that the landowners possibly could file legal action against the developer.

Property owners have complained about unfinished paving, incomplete storm-water management work and signage that wasn't installed. Homes also were left unfinished, they said.

County leaders previously had said the bonds for two sections of what was envisioned to be a 246-home development were not sufficient and the amount of work left to be done was extensive.

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