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Blue Ridge CTC buys land for new campus

November 05, 2009|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. -- The Blue Ridge Community and Technical College Board of Governors on Wednesday unanimously agreed to buy 43 acres for a new campus off W.Va. 45 near Martinsburg.

The school's purchase and sale agreement with Interstate Development Group (IDG) LLC was signed by Board of Governors chairwoman Maria Lorensen after the board discussed the deal in executive session.

"It has been certainly a long process, but I think that we were very diligent about getting the right piece of property that would put the college in a really good place for the future," Lorensen said after the meeting.

Blue Ridge agreed to buy the property for $38,500 per acre (or $1,655,500), according to the contract, which is pending IDG's contract to purchase the property from the L. Jeanne Meyer estate.

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As part of a pending deal, IDG is expected to make a "substantial" charitable contribution to the college, according to John E. Swift IV, who organized the corporation in September and is a member of one of three companies that came together to form the venture.

The acreage is less than a mile from The Commons shopping center at Exit 12 of Interstate 81, officials said.

If the IDG's contract with the Meyer estate falls through, attorney Kenneth J. "Ken" Barton Jr., said the agreement protects the college's interest and affords the school the opportunity to deal directly with the current land owner.

Barton expects the pending real estate deal to close within 10 months.

Though the future campus property does not border W.Va. 45 (Apple Harvest Drive), IDG agreed to pay for the design and cost of an access road through adjoining property. IDG intends to buy about 60 acres from the Meyer estate, according to the agreement

The college received $3 million from the state to purchase land for a new campus and Blue Ridge CTC President Peter G. Checkovich said the money could also be used for design and site work for the new campus.

"It's an excellent piece of property," Checkovich said. Swift said the property was part of a farm, but the land has not been used for agriculture for a number of years.

The school can use another $13.5 million in bond money for the school's first building on the new campus, which could be open by the fall of 2012 or spring of 2013, Checkovich said after the meeting.

The college's existing lease of the first floor of the Berkeley County government administration building at 400 W. Stephen St. expires at the end of 2015, Checkovich said.

Checkovich said the college looked at about a dozen different properties, including acreage near City Hospital, a blighted shopping plaza next to the Berkeley County Judicial Center in Martinsburg and land in Tabler Station Business Park managed by the Berkeley County Development Authority.

The college had offered the Development Authority as much as $70,000 per acre for 30 acres.

Altogether, the BOG had four appraisals done on acreage they seriously considered, Checkovich said.

Wednesday's decision by the college after Leslie See, the college's enrollment management director announced that the number of students enrolled this fall (3,262) was 32.3 percent higher than fall 2008, topping the school's goal of 2,700.

While economic conditions were a factor in the enrollment increase, Checkovich commended faculty and staff for their efforts.

"Without that, it doesn't matter what the economy does," Checkovich said.

IDG includes Swift, Stephen E. Cunningham and David Mikula of Triple Crown Holdings LLC, Thomas R. Spaur II and Thomas R. Spaur III of Spaur & Spaur LLC of Ranson, W.Va., and Copenhaver's Snowy River Holdings LLC.

"It's going to be such a positive impact to the community as a whole," Swift said after the meeting.

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