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Project lawsuit settled in W.Va.

April 23, 2008|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - A developer's plan to build homes in an area of Berkeley County where emergency vehicles already face obstacles could be allowed to go forward as part of a settlement reached in Berkeley County Circuit Court.

The deal concerning Waterfall Farm Estates includes an agreement by the developer, Trinbar LLC, to pay unspecified amounts toward three specific road improvements near its 74.6-acre development site, according to an order signed last week by 23rd Judicial Circuit judge Gina M. Groh, Trinbar's attorney Richard Gay and county legal counsel Norwood Bentley III.

The agreement specifically pledges money for the replacement of a bridge on Mouth of Opequon Road, the widening of Brown Road just west of a one-lane railroad overpass and widening of 1,300 feet of Mouth of Opequon Road, from Brown Road south to Bedington Road.

"Trinbar will have no responsibility to make these agreements with the (West Virginia Division of Highways) unless the Berkeley County Planning Commission approves Waterfall Farm Estates preliminary plat and agrees to approve the final plats ... and the WVDOH agrees to these terms and the repairs or improvements," according the order.

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In his court appeal of Commission's December 2007 4-2 vote against the project, Gay argued the county planning commission essentially failed to follow the county's development rules when it denied the plans for 103 single-family lots and 152 multifamily units.

The Planning Commission's vote to deny a required preliminary approval came after hearing an outpouring of opposition from neighboring residents and community leaders.

Bedington Volunteer Fire Department's chief Scott Schill and Del. John Overington had cited health, safety and welfare concerns with emergency access to the development site because of a one-lane railroad underpass and a one-lane bridge.

At that time, Bentley advised the planning commission to approve the project after engineer Dennis Black, who is involved in the proposed development, had offered to set aside $100,000 for road improvements.

Though the settlement filed with the circuit court last week lacks a specific financial commitment from the developer, Bentley said Monday that the state highway department was cooperating with the developer and the county on the effort to address the safety concerns. Bentley said the bridge work could be completed by the end of the year.

"It's really something the developer can be proud of," Bentley said of what he described as a "precedent setting" arrangement.

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