County backs Martinsburg's TIF district plan


MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Another piece of what has been a challenging financial puzzle for building a second north-south route through Martinsburg to alleviate traffic congestion appears to be falling into place.

Reaffirming prior support of the proposed Raleigh Street extension, the Berkeley County Commission on Thursday endorsed a plan by the City of Martinsburg to channel tax money generated from development near the road project to help pay for the road construction itself.

The Commission's approval of the city's plan to create a Tax Increment Financing (TIF) district - comprised of 37 pieces of property in northern Martinsburg - was required because four of the parcels are not annexed into the city, officials said.

"I think this merits a lot of gain for the city of Martinsburg as well as the county," said Commission President Steven C. Teufel.


The revenue stream to help pay for the road's construction, along with other roads and utility needs in the TIF district proposed still requires approval from the West Virginia Development Office in Charleston.

Attorney Taunja Willis-Miller told commissioners that the state had 60 days to consider the city's request.

As proposed, bonds would be issued to help pay for the "Raleigh Street Extension," along with improvements to other roads in the TIF district, (Lutz Avenue, Meridian Parkway, Court House Drive and Forbes Drive) and water, sewer and other utility needs for development.

The additional tax money generated by development in the city's TIF district would be committed to paying off up to $20 million in bonds issued for the work. The city currently is proposing an issue of $14,250,000 in bonds.

When combined with a little more than $29 million in anticipated or committed state and federal money, the TIF revenue is expected to close the funding gap for the Raleigh Street Extension, City Manager Mark Baldwin said Thursday after the commission meeting.

The 1.2-mile road is projected to cost $32.5 million, according to the latest estimates Baldwin had available.

Earlier this month, Baldwin said the West Virginia Division of Highways gave an engineering firm "notice to proceed" with design work for the extension. That phase is expected to take about one year, Baldwin said.

The concept for the extension includes upgrades to traffic signals at Raleigh Street's intersections in downtown, bridges over two railroad company's lines that pass through the city, Baldwin said. Portions of the extension are expected to be two and three lanes, with the possibility of additional turn lanes at the junction with Edwin Miller Boulevard. Built as a 25 mph street, officials expect it to improve emergency response as well as alleviate notorious congestion along North Queen Street.

Developer Thomas L. Burke said the TIF district would be a boon to the Meridian Pointe development, a 54-acre project that he has billed as a new northern gateway for the city.

Ground has been broken for a 70,000-square-foot building that is part of the development, which aims to lure tenants looking for Class A office space to a part of the city that "shows the greatest promise for (non-retail) commercial development," Burke said.

"The north end of Martinsburg is fast becoming the city's financial district," Burke said.

Mayor George Karos on Thursday thanked the county commissioners for their past and continued support, including the pending transfer of federal money authorized for the Martinsburg bypass project to the Raleigh Street Extension.

"Without that $13 million, we wouldn't be where we are today," Karos said.

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