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College to make offer for land

February 04, 2009|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. -- The governing board of Blue Ridge Community and Technical College voted Wednesday afternoon to make an offer to buy up to 30 acres from the Berkeley County Development Authority for a new campus, college President Peter G. Checkovich said Wednesday.

Development Authority executive director Stephen L. Christian said Wednesday evening that he did not know anything about the vote taken by the college after he presented the college's Board of Governors information Wednesday about available land in Tabler Station Business Park south of Martinsburg.

"Today's vote comes as a pleasant surprise," Christian said. "I wasn't aware of the vote, however, I am very pleased that they have a strong interest in the property."

If an agreement is reached, Christian said he believes the college would be a tremendous asset to the business park, which is close to Eastern West Virginia Regional Airport, between U.S. 11 and Exit 8 of Interstate 81.

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Checkovich said the contract for the Development Authority's consideration included an offer to pay as much as $70,000 per acre for the land. The contract to be submitted also includes a provision to allow the college to retain the right of first refusal on the purchase of up to an additional 10 acres in the business park and a 180-day period to allow the school to make sure the property is suitable through "due diligence," Checkovich said.

"I think they're serious about the property," Checkovich said of the decision.

After being informed of the college's offer by The Herald-Mail, Christian said "the development authority is not in the business of negotiating real estate deals in the press."

Board president Kevin Starliper did not return a message left at his office Wednesday afternoon requesting comment.

The offer comes about seven months after Checkovich told Gov. Joe Manchin during a tour of the school's new technology center that land at the Tabler Station Business Park was being considered for a new campus. The technology center is in leased space at nearby Berkeley Business Park, formerly known as the World Kitchen/Corning Glass Works off Corning Way.

In the Board of Governors' November 2008 meeting, the board adopted a motion to submit an offer to Boyd Orchard LLC for 30 acres west of I-81 near Delmar Orchard Road. Before that, Checkovich confirmed that school officials were exploring the possibility of purchasing property near City Hospital, also west of Interstate 81.

The board formed a land committee in April 2007, two months after the Berkeley County Commission authorized the county to purchase the former Martin's grocery/CVS store shopping plaza in Martinsburg, a property that the college was then interested in purchasing.

Checkovich said Wednesday the governing board has considered about nine properties altogether, but received offers from owners of "a lot more."

With enrollment approaching 2,500 students, the college is "feeling the pinch" for classroom space, especially during night classes, Checkovich said.

While absent for the vote, Board of Governors chair Jane Peters said Wednesday that it was "time to move forward" on establishing a new campus after careful consideration of eight to 10 properties.

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