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City ‘begrudgingly' grants Jamestown developer extension

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Municipal Planning Commission members "begrudgingly" granted developer George Neilan a few months to fix erosion issues at his stalled addition to the Jamestown subdivision.

But Neilan will have to start over with a new application for a preliminary plat permit in order to resume work on the subdivision's Phase 4, after he resolves a dispute with the Charleston Sanitary Board over sewer lines.

Also Wednesday, planning commissioners approved site plans for a new 60,000-square-foot building at Northgate Business Park. The three-story structure will serve as the new eastern region home of Energy Corporation of America, replacing its current home at the Energy Center on 56th Street in Kanawha City.

Despite being notified that his original 2005 permit for Phase 4 expired Dec. 31 last year after numerous extensions, Neilan asked the Planning Commission for yet another extension.

"I'm pleased to say, after a considerable period of time, work is virtually complete except for the sewer," Neilan said. "The sewer is currently in mediation with the Public Service Commission." Neilan filed a complaint against the city's Sanitary Board with the PSC last year.

Larry Roller, general manager of the Sanitary Board, said a PSC mediator asked Neilan to file a new sewer plan for review by Friday.

John James of Terradon, Neilan's consultant, said he's working on the plans. "The Sanitary Board issues will get resolved one way or another," he said, "and we'll come back with revised plans -- better than the original ones."

City Planning Director Dan Vriendt said the engineering department recommends granting a very minor extension to complete very specific work -- backfilling, seeding, grading and straightening of silt fences.

"Staff begrudgingly recommends approving an extension until the end of May, to complete this limited work." The partial approval would not allow any work on sewer lines or anything else not explicitly stated, Vriendt said.

That did not sit well with some commission members.

"I want him [Neilan] to have a revised plan," said Mary Jean Davis, also a City Council member. "We've given him five renewals. That's six years. In that time there are two new subdivisions in Charleston. Highland Hospital has built a new hospital.

"I don't want you doing any more work up there until you have a new plan, a plan we can see and trust you will follow," she told Neilan.

Davis is among several commissioners who previously criticized Neilan's delays and threatened not to approve more deadline extensions.

Despite that, "I begrudgingly move to approve an extension to the end of May," she said, and the measure passed.

No one had questions or comments about ECA's plans at Northgate, near the Ticketmaster offices. Commissioners unanimously approved the plan, contingent on Sanitary Board approval of sewer plans by June 5.

Kyle Mork, the chief operating officer and son of president, CEO and founder John Mork, said ECA has outgrown the Energy Center, its home for the last 25 years.

"It is a very exciting time for natural gas companies," he said. "Thanks to technological advancements like horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing ... the industry is experiencing a renaissance."

The new eastern headquarters will have space to nearly double the current staff of about 110 employees -- mostly engineers and geologists and back-office workers, he said.

Though ECA is headquartered in Denver and has operations in the west and overseas, 80 percent of its capitol investments have gone to the Appalachian Basin in recent years, Mork said.

"This year we'll be drilling a well in Webster County and one in Gilmer County, and we recently drilled in Marion County. All over north-central West Virginia we have acreage." The company has drilled 137 Marcellus wells in the state since 2005.

With its building partners -- Terradon Corp., Associated Architects and Jarrett Construction -- ECA hopes to break ground this summer and move into its new home by the middle of next year, Mork said.

Though designs are still preliminary, he estimated the total cost at about $12 million, including land.

"We have an option on the site. We'll execute the option when we resolve the sewer issues."

ECA's first preference was to expand its existing offices in Kanawha City, Mork said. The company tried to do that in 1999 but backed off because of zoning issues.

"We looked at it again within the last 12 months. Parking was the biggest issue. The most we could add was 40,000 to 45,000 square feet. We needed 60,000."

Once the company moves to Northgate, it plans to sell the Energy Center site.

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

 


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