Many hurdles before Coolfont project starts
Carl M. Freeman Companies, Inc. has plenty
of red tape and government alphabet soup to work through before construction can start on their planned community at Coolfont.
Freeman Companies outlined their current plans for building "The Villages at Coolfont" in a public meeting on October 22. The plan included 1,200 single family, duplex, triplex and condominium homes to be built over the next 10 to 12 years on the former Coolfont property near Berkeley Springs.
Facilities include a spa, amphitheater, chapel, restaurant, hotel and conference center. Lake Siri will be expanded into two lakes bordering both sides of Cold Run Valley Road.
The company is dealing with 12 different
state and federal agencies during the engineering phase of the project, said Bob Marggraf, Freeman
vice president and general manager for West Virginia.
Progress is slow
For example, a Waste Load Application for the new sewer plant must be submitted to the State Department of Environmental Protection. The DEP has 180 days to review the application. Once approved, the West Virginia Public Service Commission may review the application for another 270 days.
Each agency can send the application back for further modification before approval. Public hearings will also be held.
Another example is a traffic study that Freeman submitted to the State Division of Highways.
"The preliminary traffic study has been
submitted and reviewed by our traffic engineering division in Charleston and their comments were sent to the consultant, I believe in mid-October. We are currently waiting for the
consultant to submit the revised study," said Berry Knotts, a state traffic engineer in Burlington.
After the report is modified based on highway engineers' comments, the revised report will be resubmitted to the Division of Highways, which may then comment further. The back-and-forth process could continue for some time.
Freeman's plans include the building of both water and sewer treatment plants that the company hopes to eventually turn over to the Warm Springs Public Service District.
Rodney Hovermale, manager of Warm Springs Public Service District, told The Morgan Messenger he has an "understanding" with Freeman that the water and sewer plants would be turned over to Warm Springs to manage at some future date. He said he has received nothing in writing from Freeman at this point.
Asked if this would have any effect on the rates for present Warm Springs sewer customers, Hovermale said, "It should have a positive effect on rates."
Since Freeman is paying the cost of building the water and sewer plants, Warm Springs will have no debt service, only normal operating expenses associated with the facilities.
Bats to be studied
Freeman is also working with the U. S. Army Corp of Engineers and the U. S. Fish & Wildlife Service to determine if the proposed development will interfere with the habitat of Indiana Bats.
The Indiana Bat is protected as an endangered species by the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Although bat surveys were conducted several years ago, a new study is now required.
"There are several options for how that study may be accomplished that we are looking at," Marggraf said.
More meetings expected
Marggraf said more information about the Coolfont proposal will be made public as plans firm up.
"Because we are in the design and engineering phase, plans are changing daily. As soon as finalized information goes to public agencies, it will be available to the public and public hearings will be held," Marggraf said.
He expected another town meeting would be held at an appropriate time.