Commission gives initial approval to South Hills subdivision
CHARLESTON, W.Va. - Charleston's Municipal Planning Commission gave initial approval to an 11-lot subdivision close to 1531 Connell Road in the city's South Hills neighborhood Wednesday afternoon.
The development will cover about 4.5 acres. Three existing houses on the property will be demolished.
Builder J.D. Stricklen, who is a non-voting member of the commission, brought the proposal to the board. His company, Stricklen Realty, will be responsible.
"What we're trying to do . . . is use the natural topography of the lots," Stricklen said.
The lots will be accessible by one entrance road that ends in a cul-de-sac.
Other South Hills residents raised concerns about the project, though.
Dr. Thompson Pearcy owns property adjacent to the proposed subdivision, and said he wanted to make sure the property lines were correctly identified before lots were sold. He said he fully supported the project otherwise.
His sister, Elizabeth Pearcy-Pratt, said she was concerned about fill dirt in the subdivision and how that would affect erosion and runoff onto the Pearcy property, which is downhill.
"These are all fairly level lots," Stricklen said. "We don't anticipate hauling dirt on-site."
Pearcy-Pratt wasn't the only one concerned with erosion though. Susie Salisbury, who is also a Republican city councilwoman representing a South Hills ward, said she experienced significant runoff on her property after Stricklen built the Suncrest subdivision.
"I've lost six trees," she said. "I have a swamp on another part of my property."
Salisbury said Stricklen was very accommodating when the drainage issues started, but she told the planning commission to be careful when considering development in South Hills.
"He did exactly what the city recommended he do," she said. "My concern is there are other developments it's not going to work in."
Stricklen said the new subdivision is a different situation because of the topography and different drainage system.
"We've looked at this and we feel very comfortable," he said.
City Planning Director Dan Vriendt said the planning department reviewed the proposal and recommended it be approved.
"The new and existing infrastructure will be able to handle the development," he said.
In other business, the commission tabled a request from developer George Neilan to receive final plan approval for Phase IV and a lot in Phase II of the Jamestown Subdivision in South Hills.
Neilan is facing two ongoing issues - one with the Charleston Sanitary Board and one with the planning commission.
With the sanitary board, Neilan failed to install sewers in compliance with a plan he submitted to the board. That dispute is currently in mediation with the West Virginia Public Service Commission, said Sanitary Board Operations Manager Tim Haapala.
On the commission's end, the board has granted Neilan extensions to complete work several times, though little is accomplished. In addition, properties in the subdivision have experienced significant erosion and homeowners have suffered damage to their homes in the past.
Jamestown Road resident Barbara Covelli told the commission yesterday she is worried for other homeowners who purchase property from Neilan. The deck of her home fell off when her backyard began to slip not long after she bought her home, she said.
"The problem is the land obviously was not prepared correctly, initially," she said.
Councilwoman Mary Jean Davis, who also sits on the planning commission, expressed concern about approving any more lots in the subdivision. She said it bothered her that some of the proposed lots would be labeled "critical," meaning it may not be favorable or safe for construction.
"I just don't want this commission to be blindsided again," she said.
One particular lot, No. 36, is a triangular shaped property that is part of Phase II. The usefulness of the lot is debatable, city officials said.
"I don't think it's a buildable lot," City Engineer Chris Knox said.
The commission will take up the issue again at a later meeting.
The only entrance to the subdivision is in the city, as are most of the subdivision's lots. The annexation will have to go through several more hearings before final approval.
Contact writer Matt Murphy at Matt.Murphy@dailymail.com or 304-348-4817.