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New subdivision planned in South Hills

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Developers of two planned subdivisions, located within a mile of each other off Connell Road in Loudon Heights, will take their cases before the Municipal Planning Commission Wednesday.

But aside from the location, the two subdivision proposals could hardly be further apart.

On one hand, J.D. Stricklen seeks preliminary approval for his still-unnamed project to lay out 11 home sites on what is now two larger parcels on the west side of Connell Road, south of Bedford Road.

His company, Stricklen Realty, has a proven track record after creating subdivisions like Suncrest, Gettysburg, Yorktowne and Conner Landing in and around Charleston in recent years. Several city departments have already signed off on his latest plan.

On the other hand, George Neilan returns to the planning commission to take yet another stab at getting permission to sell lots in phase 4 of his Jamestown Subdivision, an effort he began eight years ago.

After first getting phase 4 approval in August 2005 to build the infrastructure for 29 homes, Neilan installed sewers and other utility lines and built roads. But because of construction delays and personal problems, the work took far longer than planned.

Increasingly impatient planning commissioners granted Neilan an unprecedented five extensions to his original deadline before finally voting to revoke his permit entirely in March.

The most recent problem was Neilan's inability to resolve a long-running dispute with the city's Sanitary Board. Larry Roller, the board's general manager, maintains Neilan failed to install the sewers according to the plan he originally submitted.

In response, Neilan filed a complaint last year with the state Public Service Commission, asking the PSC to order the sanitary board to approve his sewer lines. The PSC appointed a mediator.

Neilan is now asking the planning commission to develop just nine of the 29 lots in phase 4, and reserve the others for future development. The nine lots are located closest to existing homes in Jamestown, along Jamestown Road, according to a map Neilan attached to his application.

The proposal avoids lots located farther downhill around a sharp curve. Sanitary board operations manager Tim Haapala has said Neilan buried sewers under the road there up to 10 feet deeper than planned.

"Of the nine Phase 4 lots, seven have prior existing approved sewers," Neilan wrote in a July 10 memo to city Planning Director Dan Vriendt.

"I have prospective purchasers for one and perhaps two of these lots, assuming final plat approval soon," he wrote. "These lots have existing sewer lines. I do not wish to lose these purchasers."

A July 26 memo from Haapala paints a different picture, however, indicating little has changed in negotiations between Neilan and the sanitary board.

"Not approved," Haapala's note says at the top, and lists three reasons. "The sanitary sewers do not fully conform to the requirements of the Alternate Main Line Extension Agreement between and developer and CSB," he said.

In addition, "The case before the WVPSC remains in mediation. If something changes, CSB will advise the Planning Department," Haapala said.

Stricklen, who has an option to buy the property for his proposed Connell Road subdivision from Elizabeth and Thomas Block, said he was not ready to comment yet about the project. His application, on file at the city Planning Department, provides few details.

Satellite photos show the property is mostly level, with dirt roads that lead to three existing homes. "The three buildings will be demolished," Vriendt said. The dirt roads will be paved and brought up to city standards, he said.

The sanitary board and traffic engineering have approved the plans, with some suggested changes, as has the fire department, Vriendt said. "We've looked at it. We're fine."

Letters have been sent to nearby property owners, and a sign is posted at the entrance along Connell Road alerting folks to the planned subdivision, but there's been no feedback from neighbors, he said.

"There's not a whole lot to say about it," Vriendt said. "It's a highly desirable place to live, that area."

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


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