by Kate Shunney
Property owners along the route of a proposed U.S. 522 bypass around Berkeley Springs have gotten letters from the Division of Highways (DOH) about the affect of the project on their land parcels.
Others have been contacted by local appraiser Kent Kesecker Associates, who is under contract with the DOH Right of Way Division to appraise all of the parcels along the bypass route.
A “Letter of Interest” dated July 1 was received by some property owners along the bypass route.
It says, “This letter of interest is to inform you that your property may be affected by the above referenced West Virginia Division of Highways (WVDOH) project. As a part of this project, the WVDOH may be acquiring some of your property. Please be advised that you may be contacted by Appraisers and/or consultants on behalf of the WVDOH who will be collecting information needed prior to an offer being presented to you.”
The letter directs property owners to contact District Five Realty Manager Todd Wilson at 304-289-2205 with questions about their land and the bypass.
Property owners also received a pamphlet, “A Guide for Property Owners and Tenants.”
The booklet has answers to a dozen questions, including: “Why must my property be taken?” and “Must I accept the offer of the Division of Highways for my property?” The booklet outlines the process of the taking of land for a highway project, how it would affect those who have to move because of a proposed highway, and the legal rights of property owners to seek fair compensation for their land or buildings.
State Highway officials have still not yet released their final 522 bypass route to the public.
The DOH has held two public hearings about the bypass project in the last 16 months. The first, in April 2018, resulted in changes to the bypass route. A second public hearing was held on February 28 of this year. Changes to the bypass entrances and crossings were unveiled at that meeting.
At that meeting, the four-mile bypass was expected to begin on the southern end of Berkeley Springs near Sheetz, swing northeast toward the intersection of Martinsburg Road and New Hope Road, and extend to U.S. 522 near U.S. Silica. A Fairview Drive connector road is also part of the bypass project.
The Division of Highways collected public comment about the modified bypass plans at the February meeting, but have not released the contents of those comments or a summary of them yet, despite multiple requests from The Morgan Messenger for the information.
DOH officials say a compilation of the comments will be prepared in August.