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Coolfont development project advances

September 05, 2008|By TRISH RUDDER

BERKELEY SPRINGS, W.Va. -- Carl M. Freeman Companies has moved one step closer to the construction of The Villages at Coolfont. 

At Friday's public hearing, the Morgan County Commission unanimously approved Freeman's application to form a Community Enhancement District (CED). 

Commission President Glen R. Stotler said the CED only gives Freeman financial capability; it does not mean the project is approved. 

The CED will allow the company to issue bonds to help finance the construction of the planned community's infrastructure, such as a water plant and a waste water treatment facility, said Bob Marggraf, Freeman's vice president and general manager for the West Virginia office. 

John Stump, Freeman's attorney with Steptoe & Johnson, said the Coolfont homeowners will pay an additional share to pay for the CED, and they will know the property comes with an extra assessment. He said no taxes come from the county. 

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Marggraf said the CED does not imply approval of the plans for the development. Freeman is still awaiting approval from federal, state and local agencies. 

Freeman purchased Coolfont Resort in November 2005, and the plan is for 1,200 homes to be built at the 1,000-acre resort community over 14 years. 

About 25 people attended the public hearing, and comments were made about the proposed Coolfont community.

Resident George Farnham suggested a 1 percent proffer on the homes before the CED was granted, but county attorney Richard Gay said the W.Va. statute does not authorize negotiations. 

Gay said if the planning commission adopts proffers, it would have a right to demand them and other requirements. 

The commission agreed to present a list of directives to the county planning commission at the next commission meeting Sept. 19.   

Commissioner Brenda J. Hutchinson said she was not opposed to Freeman, or the CED or cluster development. 

Hutchinson said by granting approval for the CED, which provides a funding mechanism for Freeman, the county should be able to ask Freeman for concessions, including voluntary proffers. 

She said some issues need to be put in writing such as "roads, a fire substation and jobs."   

"I have no problem with the issues Brenda (Hutchinson) has raised, and the planning commission needs to thoroughly look at it before any approvals are made. That's the proper entity. As George (Farnham) said, with this impact on our community, this is what we want you to do," Stotler said. 

Del. Daryl E. Cowles, R-Morgan said the CED is a "win for the larger community as a whole."  

Cowles said the infrastructure that goes into a community should be top quality, and it will be turned over to the community after the bonds are paid. 

Stotler said, "Once it's turned over to the Warm Springs Public Service District, it has to be built to its standards." 

Great Cacapon, W.Va., resident Jerry Berman said the CED legislation was provided by progressives and was planned to draw development in rural areas. 

"This is as close as you come to a planned community," Berman said.

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