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WVU housing changes outlined

CHARLESTON, W.Va. - The City of Morgantown should expect thousands of dollars annually in taxes and fees from West Virginia University's anticipated development project in the Sunnyside neighborhood, according to a university official.

WVU has an agreement with two private holding companies to purchase 39 parcels of land in Sunnyside at a cost of roughly $14.5 million, according to a document submitted last month to the Legislature.

The document states the university is pursuing the "public-private venture" to increase student housing opportunities and amenities, which could include coffee shops, a grocery store and an automatic laundry.

Those developments could mean $1.8 million in fees and taxes for Morgantown during the first year of construction, according to a document sent to city officials by Ron Justice, WVU director of Student Organizations Services.

Justice, who also formerly served as the mayor of Morgantown, sent a "Sunnyside Tax & Fee Analysis" to city officials last week. It outlines how much money the city currently receives from fees and taxes on the property in question and projects how much it could make once construction is underway.

"One concern has been that the city not only realize new housing, but also make sure the economic impact on the city is not diminished in any way," Justice's email reads. "The information attached will show that the city will see a substantial annual increase when all revenue streams are compared."

Right now the city collects about $20,000 from real estate and business and occupation taxes, as well as fire service fees, according to the analysis. In the first year of construction, the city should receive one-time business and occupation construction tax revenues in the neighborhood of $1.67 million.

That figure is based on an estimated construction cost "of improvements on project site of $55,712,329," according to the analysis.

Morgantown should also expect more than $100,000 annually in additional tax money from rental agreements and commercial entities on the property.

The analysis estimates the city will receive $50,000 annually in commercial sales business and occupation taxes, based on the projected $5 million gross revenue of the businesses on the project site.

The analysis projects $7.6 million in gross revenues from "student and commercial tenant rentals," of which the city would receive $76,471 in taxes.

Real estate tax revenue projections showed the city receiving $7,800 annually. That figure is based on "commercial space assessed value of $3,423,380."

WVU property purchases have caused concern in the past, said Morgantown Mayor Jim Manilla. When the university buys property, the city generally no longer receives business and occupation tax for those parcels, he said.

That won't be a problem this time because of the project's public-private nature, Manilla said.

"We've had pretty flat revenue for about the past five or six years, so anything like this is definitely beneficial toward the city," Manilla said. "Whether it's for infrastructure, for public safety, it definitely helps."

The WVU Board of Governors voted Tuesday to approve borrowing up to $15 million via the sale of revenue bonds to purchase Sunnyside property. The board did not discuss the measure in open session and adjourned directly after the vote.

WVU officials have declined to provide any further information about the deal.

The university has spent more than $20 million to acquire land and rental property near campus.

More student housing is a key portion of WVU's 2020 strategic plan. In September the board of governors passed a 2012 master housing plan: the plan calls for an increase in student beds from the current 6,062 to 7,620 over the next 10 years.

Almost 1,000 beds in the downtown area are expected by 2014 through "public/private partnership," according to the plan. The document WVU submitted to the Legislature calls for the housing and amenities to be ready by fall 2014. It is the only source of increased beds for 2014, according to the report.  

University spokesman John Bolt said he was not sure if the purchase approved by the board would account for all of those beds.

The 979 more beds anticipated for 2014 will come in the form of "apartment" and "family housing" accommodations, according to the report. Apartment housing, intended for upperclassmen and graduate students, will increase from 1,09 beds in 2013 to 1,970 beds in 2014. Family housing - intended for faculty, staff or students with children - will increase from 40 beds to 146 beds, according to the report.

The report states several reasons why WVU wants more housing. It will help retain younger students and better accommodate the 32,000 students it anticipates serving by 2020.

It could also cut down on behavior issues, something Manilla and other officials believe could come as a result of new housing in Sunnyside.

"Parents are demanding more student housing that is controlled and managed by the University," the report states. "Mainly, due to concerns about supervision and safety."

The document WVU submitted to the Legislature said the sale of the property would be finalized today, as long as all required approval is received.

Contact writer Dave Boucher at 304-348-4843 or david.boucher@dailymail.com. Follow him at www.twitter.com/Dave_Boucher1. ;


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