Coolfont tax district plan moves to public hearing & final vote
The Morgan County Commissioners agreed on Friday to order the filing of a petition by Berkeley Springs Development, LLC to create a Coolfont Community Enhancement District at the proposed Villages at Coolfont development in Cold Run Valley.
Berkeley Springs Develop-ment is an offshoot of Carl M. Freeman Companies, the Maryland development firm that bought the former Coolfont resort in 2005.
The unanimous vote on July 25 came after a legal review and economic feasibility study were conducted at the commissioners' request.
Legal & financial studies
State law requires that community enhancement districts be deemed necessary for the development and economically feasible before a petition to create a district may be filed.
The county's attorney, Richard Gay, conducted a legal review to determine if the creation of the district was necessary as defined by state law.
On Friday, Attorneys Gay and Nathan Cochran presented their findings that the petition meets the requirements necessary for the public's health, safety and welfare.
Gay said that so far there have been no court cases concerning the creation of community enhancement districts.
Pam Holton of Prager, Sealy & Co., LLC of Great Falls, Va. was commissioned to do an economic feasibility study.
The firm submitted a report to the commission that read in part: Based on the information provided and summarized above, Prager, Sealy believes the project is economically feasible.
The development, as currently planned, will include 1,200 homes, including single family detached homes, duplexes, townhouses and condominiums as well as spas, parks, pools and some retail space.
Home prices are expected to range from $250,000 to $800,000. About 25% of the homes are expected to be permanent residences, with the rest being second homes.
The developer currently expects to break ground in 2010 with homes beginning to be occupied in late 2011.
A study commissioned by Freeman predicted that the Coolfont development will generate an additional business volume of $552 million to the county's economy through 2024.
What it means
The creation of the Coolfont Community Enhancement District would allow the developer to sell bonds to raise money to fund the construction of roads, water and sewer treatment facilities within the district.
Applicable licenses and permits must still be obtained by the developer before construction.
When homes are sold within the district, the developer may recover the cost of these infrastructure improvements by annual assessments to the development's home owners.
The annual special assessments to homeowners within the district were estimated to range from $783 for a $231,000 condominium to $1,525 for a $450,000 single family detached home.
Bob Marggraf, vice president and West Virginia general manager for Carl M. Freeman Companies, has said Freeman intends to give the water and sewer treatment plants to the Warm Springs Public Service District at an appropriate time.
State law doesn't require a public hearing to collect comments about the petition from people who do not live within the community enhancement district. In this case, the developer is presently the only property owner involved.
The commissioners and their legal counsel, however, thought public notice and a hearing were necessary.
I think we need to give people a chance to comment, Commissioner Brenda Hutchinson said.
We intend to give an opportunity for anybody who wants to be heard, Commission president Glen Stotler added.
A public hearing was set for 1:30 p.m. at the commissioners' meeting on Friday, September 5.
After the hearing, the commissioners will vote to approve or disapprove the ordinance to create the enhancement district.