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City permit for Jamestown expansion expires

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Some may have thought the seven-year saga of Jamestown subdivision's latest phase reached its final chapter when developer George Neilan's permit expired at the end of last year.

But Neilan isn't giving up. He installed concrete curbs last month, and laid down a base coat of asphalt on the road through the subdivision's phase 4.

He met with city Planning Director Dan Vriendt and tried to resolve a lingering dispute about sewers in an informal meeting at the state Public Service Commission.

When that effort failed, Neilan filed a formal complaint against the Charleston Sanitary Board with the PSC.

Neilan, his lawyer and engineer and the sanitary board have been squabbling for months over the sanitary sewer lines he installed to serve the two dozen homes planned for the latest addition to Jamestown.

In particular, Sanitary Board folks say Neilan buried two sections of sewer pipe up to 10 feet deeper than originally planned. Unless the board approves the sewer system, Neilan can't get permission from the city to sell home sites.

Larry Roller, general manager of the Sanitary Board, said the board is simply trying to get Neilan to follow the sewer plan he signed back in 2005, when the Municipal Planning Commission first issued his permit -- called a preliminary plat plan -- for phase 4.

PSC rules and regulations provide two methods for extending sewer lines, Roller said: "A mainline extension, which is what we do, or, for developers, an alternate mainline extension."

In an alternate extension, the developer installs the sewers according to Sanitary Board standards. After testing and inspecting, the board signs off on the project and adopts the sewers into its system.

"In this case the PSC did approve, in a formal case, the alternate mainline extension [plan]," Roller said. "The only thing we have done is ask him to follow the agreement he approved. He hasn't done that. We are not going to accept lines that are not part of the agreement."

Roller said he and operations manager Tim Haapala<co > met with Neilan and PSC staff a few weeks ago, but could not resolve the dispute.

At about the same time, Neilan met with Vriendt, the city planner.

"He was wanting to explore his options in maybe trying to get some partial approvals," Vriendt said. "He was looking to get final approval for lots that had sewer access. But the [planning] commission has never approved anything like that. It's all or nothing.

"Theoretically you could get approval for all but one lot and just walk away" from the problem lot.

Since getting his permit in 2005, Neilan obtained an unprecedented five time extensions to finish the infrastructure from increasingly skeptical planning commissioners.

Other developers have missed deadlines and asked for extensions, Vriendt said. "We've not had one that's gone on this long.

"In order for him to proceed with any work on the subdivision, he either needs to ask the commission for an extension or he could resubmit as a new application. I think he has a right to ask [for an extension]; it doesn't mean the commission agree."

Neilan didn't say what he planned to do, Vriendt said.

"He was looking at his options and they were probably not what he wanted to hear. He was looking to sell some lots.

"Having a [subdivision] phase go on this long without any return, that's what's unusual. You want to get it finished so you can sell lots."

That's exactly what he wants to do, Neilan said Thursday. "We paved the road and put in the concrete curbs -- virtually all the work I can do, [except for] the sewer issues.

"I may submit a final plat for a portion of the subdivision. It still wouldn't resolve the big issue. We'd like to get this completed and sell lots, add housing stock to the city and increase property taxes."

The Sanitary Board may not cooperate, however. Through its lawyers, the board asked the PSC to dismiss Neilan's complaint.

Board lawyers on Wednesday also asked the PSC to ignore the response from Neilan's lawyer, J.B. Akers. Akers asked the PSC to schedule a pre-hearing conference and allow him to start gathering information before a hearing, if any.

"I've said this publicly, I've said this privately and I've said this to the PSC," said Roller at the Sanitary Board, "we have not asked Mr. Neilan to do anything he hasn't agreed to do, and we will not saddle our customers with his shoddy work.

"It's been frustrating. We deal with a lot of different developers and they do alternate mainline extensions. They're all virtually the same, and we don't have these problems with other developers that we have with Mr. Neilan."

Reach Jim Balow at balow@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5102.


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