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Request approved to rezone land south of W.Va. 45

Martinsburg City Council to consider ordinance to annex property

Martinsburg City Council to consider ordinance to annex property

June 12, 2008|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. -- A multifaceted strategy to spur economic development in the City of Martinsburg has emerged amid continued interest by developers to have their property annexed into the city.

On Wednesday, the Martinsburg Planning Commission approved a Falls Church, Va., developer's request to have land south of Apple Harvest Drive (W.Va. 45) zoned for commercial business investment.

Uniwest Cos. President Michael D. Collier said after the commission's decision that he couldn't immediately comment about what he described as a "retail" project on the 26.2-acre site between Virginia Avenue Extended and South Queen Street near Kmart.

This evening, Martinsburg City Council is expected to consider adopting an ordinance to annex the property, along with a portion of W.Va. 45 after a third and final reading.

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The planning commission's zoning approval would go into effect if the annexation is approved.

"It's a good plus for us," said Ward IV Councilman Roger Lewis, the council's member on the Planning Commission.

The city's first-ever expansion south of W.Va. 45 comes as city council considers adopting tax incentives to attract more business amid challenging economic conditions.

"We have been working the last six, eight months to try to put together an economic development package," Lewis said.

The package proposes tax relief for new businesses citywide as well as a tax incentive for investing in the city's historic downtown business district.

If adopted, any new business opening in Martinsburg would receive a 75 percent credit toward its business and occupation (B&O) tax obligation in the first year of operation. The credit would reduce by increments of 25 percent until the fourth year, when the business would be expected to shoulder the full burden of the tax on gross sales.

A separate measure creates a downtown development district and all business owners in it would be eligible for a 10 percent credit toward their business and occupation tax bills.

Adoption of both ordinances would result in an 85 percent credit for a new business that opens downtown, said Lewis, whose ward includes a sizable chunk of the proposed historic downtown district.

A third economic development strategy that specifically targets growth on the city's northern end must gain approval by the West Virginia Development Office.

Berkeley County and city leaders already have approved a Tax Increment Financing (TIF) district proposed for land near the proposed extension of North Raleigh Street as a means to help pay for construction of the additional north-south route into downtown. Taxes collected from development of the adjoining property would be steered toward the route's completion and other district infrastructure.

Lewis said a proposed ordinance to collect a community development fee to pay for the growth of "essential municipal services," such as fire and EMS protection provided to new city residential areas, would help offset the new tax incentives.

Lewis said the tax measures have been spurred in part by developers who have been asking for more incentives and added that the city needed to be competitive with Hagerstown, Winchester, Va., and the northern Berkeley County community of Spring Mills, where a new Wal-Mart opened as part of a large shopping center earlier this year.

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