In The News

Planning commission OKs New River Ledges projects

The Register-Herald

Cheryl Keenan

July 29, 2014

FAYETTEVILLE — In a unanimous decision, the five members of the Fayetteville Planning Commission gave the stamp of approval Friday to the final subdivision plan for Phases I and II of Bridgeview Estates and Phase I of Ledges, both housing projects proposed by New River Ledges Associates, LLC.

The vote came after presentations by Gary Driggs, the managing partner of New River Ledges, and Cal Hite, superintendent of the New River Gorge National River, along with brief comments from a dozen or so interested parties.

The commission’s vote was the final hurdle — for these phases of the project, to be known collectively as New River Gorge Preserve — faced by the company in what has been a protracted, sometimes volatile process, as area residents and business owners and those from around the nation, lined up on one side or the other of the proposal.

The Friday meeting was no exception. After brief initial presentations by Driggs and Hite, a parade of citizens addressed the commission, urging a “yea” or “nay” vote on the matter.

The main issues raised by opponents of the project, which will encompass about 1,400 acres along the rim of the New River Gorge, concerned detracting from the viewshed of the New River Gorge National River, and thereby affecting the region’s tourism industry, and the detrimental effects on the area’s water quality.

Many, including Hite, expressed concern specifically for 17 homesites which have been identified as being visible from several points within the NRGNR.

Proponents, though not as large in number as the opponents, pointed out the economic benefits to the area, as well as the thoroughness of Driggs’ proposal and his willingness to work with those who have concerns.

After the public hearing portion of the meeting, the five members of the commission took turns clarifying things in their minds by questioning both Driggs and Hite. With their questions answered, Anthony Salvatore, chairman of the commission, moved on to the voting phase.

Salvatore made a motion that the commission approve the subdivision plat “with the condition that the applicant file the declaration of covenants and restrictions in the Fayette County Clerk’s office simultaneously with the subdivision plat, and that the applicant shall, prior to commencing construction, provide a bond for the construction of the improvements in favor of the Town of Fayetteville sufficient to complete the improvements with a surety satisfactory to the Planning Commission and specifying the time for completion of the improvements, … and that the town superintendent and mayor be authorized to enter into such agreements with the surety as may be necessary to implement the bond.”

Mayor Jim Akers, also a member of the commission, seconded the motion, which then was approved unanimously.

The New River Gorge Preserve is one of two major housing developments proposed for the gorge last year. The second, Roaring River, proposed by Land Resource Companies, would include more than 2,000 houses on slightly less than 4,000 acres along the New River. The county’s decision to approve the initial phase of Roaring River has been appealed by the Plateau Action Network, the National Parks Conservation Agency, the West Virginia Highlands Conservancy and the National Committee for the New River.

The appeal will be the subject of a hearing Wednesday at 10 a.m. before Circuit Judge Paul Blake. At issue is whether the county zoning office or county planning commission should oversee the subdivision plan for the first phase of LRC’s project, which in its entirety proposes over 2,000 homes to be built on a nine-mile stretch overlooking the gorge.

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