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Preliminary plans OK'd for development near Nipetown, W.Va.

June 24, 2008|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. -- Preliminary plans were unanimously approved Monday evening for a sprawling development that calls for the eventual construction of more than 1,000 residential units on about 325 acres west of Interstate 81 near Nipetown, W.Va., in northern Berkeley County.

Presented to the Berkeley County Planning Commission in two sections, the Communities of Burwell North and Communities of Burwell South planned unit developments include 491 single-family lots, 411 townhouse lots and 180 apartment units in five buildings. Both sections are along Nipetown Road west of Interstate 81.

Sol Trotter of Martinsburg-based M & S Properties told commissioners that the project's completion would be market driven, acknowledging that "the build-out" may span 10 years or more.

"Sometimes you hit the market (when it's hot) - sometimes you don't," Trotter said after the vote.

Work on the development began in 2006 and Trotter said he and M & S Properties owners Jim Buchanan and Mark Markle now own 68 acres of the land in what will be a phased project.

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"We look for things to turn around in 2009 and 2010," Trotter said.

Before the commission meeting, Berkeley County Planning Director Stefanie Morton said current development activity is "really slow" and suspects the gap between the number of approved lots compared to permits issued has only grown since 2006.

That year, 5,847 new lots were created, but building permits were only issued for 99 of them, Morton said.

A Planning Commission's preliminary plat approval expires after five years, but a one-time-only, one-year extension can be granted, Morton said.

Markle said the plans engineered by Huntley, Nyce & Associates reflect an effort to build a "flagship community for the future" and are sensitive to historic properties.

"It will be a beautiful development when it's done," said Walter Sebert, Martinsburg branch manager of the engineering firm working on the project.

A large portion of the north section is shaped like a football stadium, with a rectangular green space, the size of a regulation soccer or football field in the center. The field is among 45 acres of devoted green space incorporated in the project, which bears the name of land owners from the colonial era, Markle said. An expansive boulevard and some commercial development are also features of the project.

Trotter told the commission that they have talked with Berkeley County Board of Education officials about contributing seven acres for construction of an elementary school, but haven't received a response.

To offset increases in traffic on U.S. 11 from Nipetown Road, Trotter said they have worked to try to develop a north-south connector as part of the project to reach W.Va. 901.

An engineer with a neighboring development told commissioners that his client was unwilling to continue the connector into their project.

Commissioner Richard Rauch sought clarification on how development would take place in proximity to a sinkhole on the south section of the project and a placement of a traffic signal on Nipetown Road.

Trotter said the state Division of Highways was considering their proposal as a phased project and would require upgrades as the development took shape.

Commissioners Gary Matthews and Gary Phalen were absent.

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