MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Speaking about impending development in the much-discussed Haymaker Forest, City Manager Paul Brake said there really isn’t much the city can do.
As part of a recent report to city council, Brake explained that plans are under way to develop 81 townhouses, which would require the clearing of approximately half the 40-acre wooded area.
The development would fall entirely outside of the city, as does the vast majority of the forest, making it largely outside council’s purview.
“It’s on the portion of the property closer to Dorsey [Avenue], so their connection is by the Circle K to enter into that area,” Brake said of the development. “So the portion of the forest that is contiguous to Southpointe Circle, it does not include that area.”
While only a small portion of the wooded area is in the city’s 2nd Ward, it is also adjacent to both the 1st and 6th wards. It is situated between Courtney Avenue and Southpointe Circle to the east, Dorsey Avenue and Rosemary Drive to the west and East Oak Grove Cemetery to the south.
While it’s not in the city, Brake said that could change.
“It is potentially subject to annexation, which is a different approach to go about this,” he said.
The city is in the process of reviewing an internal draft of a city-wide annexation study provided through a $37,607 contract with Grossman, Yanak & Ford, LLP.
Asked specifically if the city was targeting the forest for annexation, Communications Director Andrew Stacy explained, “The Haymaker property is bordered on three sides by the city, like other properties with similar features, It has long been considered for potential annexation into the city.”
The forest became a point of contention last summer after it was learned that the city wanted to buy the property valued at $2.6 million for $5.2 million in an attempt to head off development in what is considered valued green space.
The issue was ultimately dropped by council after more than 40 people showed up to speak overwhelmingly against the purchase during its June 19 meeting.
Now that it appears development is coming to the coveted green space, members of council expressed a number of concerns about the impact the large development could potentially have on the area, including stormwater runoff and additional traffic on an already busy Dorsey Avenue.
A handful of concerned citizens also attended the most recent council meeting to ask the city to find a way to secure the forest property and preserve the land.
“I’ve lived in Morgantown 20 years and I’ve seen a lot of detrimental effects of rapid development,” Fran Toro said. “I just want the city to take a role in planning this development, to their ability. I know our hands are tied with it’s outside the city to some degree, but there are impacts to the city and I hope we can account for those.”
Brake said the only real review the city would have is if the development needed access to city rights of way.
Even so, Councilor Rachel Fetty said, council will do what it can.
“I just want to reassure folks, though it may not reassure some, that we will do what we can to make sure that the parts of Haymaker that are in the city are protected,” Fetty said.
Story by Ben Conley, Dominion Post