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Connell Road subdivision gets green light

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Eleven homes could be built on a hidden piece of mostly flat land off Connell Road after a city agency approved subdivision plans for the property Wednesday.

Members of the Municipal Planning Commission gave the green light to developer J.D. Stricklen to build roads and other infrastructure for his still unnamed subdivision in South Hills.

But a handful of neighbors, including one City Council member, raised questions about how he will handle stormwater drainage from the site.

Stricklen has an option to buy the 4.5-acre property from Elizabeth and Thomas Bloch, who did not speak at the meeting Wednesday. A successful developer, he has built a handful of other subdivisions in and around Charleston in recent years through his Stricklen Realty.

Tom Pearcy, who said his family owns 80 adjoining acres downhill from the site, asked how stormwater will be handled. Some subdivisions, especially in South Hills, have suffered erosion problems after homes were built. Pearcy also wanted to clear up property line questions.

Councilwoman Susie Salisbury, a resident of Gordon Drive in Fort Hill, said she started having runoff problems after Stricklen built the Suncrest Subdivision above her home.

"I sat here several years ago, listened to promises my property would not be affected by stormwater," she said. "That is not the case. It is very clear that stormwater from new homes is feeding onto my property. I've had a slip and major, major erosion. I'm asking you: please be careful."

Stricklen denied responsibility for the problems. "What she didn't mention is there's other homes above us. I don't think anybody knows what percentage of the runoff comes from us."

George Neilan, the beleaguered developer of the Jamestown subdivision, didn't make it to the meeting as planned, saying his lawyer was out of town. He had submitted plans for a scaled-down version of phase four of Jamestown after commission members canceled his original phase four plan that dates back to 2005.

Neilan has been in a running battle with the Charleston Sanitary Board, which alleges he failed to install sewer lines according to the plans he submitted in 2005.

Despite Neilan's absence, commissioner Mary Jean Davis asked sanitary board employees for an update.

"Where we're at with this project is pretty much where we were before," said operations manager Tim Haapala. "Mr. Neilan has not fulfilled his plan or his alternative mainline extension agreement."

Davis said she was worried that Neilan might be allowed to develop several lots that lie below existing Jamestown homes, as he has requested. A number of those homes have had slip problems, she said.

City Engineer Chris Knox said several of those lots have been identified as "critical" lots, subject to special restrictions, and deemed another lot unbuildable.

"We've been dealing with Mr. Neilan since 2005," Davis said. "Whether in phase one, two, three or four, he has not accomplished what he set out to do. I don't want to be responsible for someone buying a critical lot, and the people above them have slippage too."

In other business Wednesday, commission members:

* Approved a plan to rename Kennawa Drive to Curtis Price Way, in honor of the former Charleston High School basketball player, musician and Charleston Job Corps director who died earlier this year. Kennawa Drive leads to the Job Corps center.

The street renaming, initiated by Job Corps staff and Councilman Andy Richardson, must also be approved by City Council.

* Agreed that an effort by the Charleston Urban Renewal Authority to re-adopt the Downtown/Old Charleston and West Side urban renewal plans is consistent with the city's comprehensive plan. Both plans expired several years ago.

Several commission members said they want business people and property owners in the affected areas to have input in the matter, as some may not want to be under the CURA umbrella.

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


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