August 28, 2007

Zoning board OKs gorge project

·  Parcels ‘enshroud’ rafting HQ

By Susan Williams
Staff writer

FAYETTEVILLE — Fayette County zoning officials on Monday unanimously recommended approval of the newest upscale housing development planned for the New River Gorge area.

County commissioners, who have the final word on the zoning change, will consider the request by the developers of Wild Rock West Virginia at their meeting Friday.

Although federal park officials have opposed housing developments in the gorge before, park boundaries are above this latest development, which should provide more of a buffer. With other developments, the park boundary is below the building, so more houses can be seen in the gorge.

Still, Carl Frischkorn, one of the developers, told members of the county Planning and Zoning Commission that developers believe at least six houses would be visible to park visitors during the winter, when there are no leaves on the trees.

Many people who live near the proposed development spoke against it Monday. Most of them said new people coming to the development will put a strain on the “little narrow, crooked road” they will find themselves using.

One resident, Frank Bays, predicted that people who are not familiar with Chestnutburg Road will be killed on it.

Several residents said they feared the increased traffic from the small roads in the Ames Heights area that will pour vehicles onto U.S. 19.

The approximately 744-acre development will surround the current headquarters for Class VI River Runners. People who want to visit Class VI usually enter on the Ames Road off U.S. 19, north of Fayetteville.

Owners of Class VI have joined with Frischkorn, a general partner in Optima Properties WV LLC, to build the development. Frischkorn also headed Battle Ridge Cos., a coal mining and road construction company, but that company went into Chapter 7 bankruptcy in 1997.

In Monday’s presentation to zoning officials, Frischkorn said the property is broken up into three parcels that “enshroud” Class VI.

Wild Rock officials have agreed to give the National Park Service a right of way to build a hiking trail through the property that will be open to the public. Rock climbers will also have access to the property.

Debbie Darden, assistant park superintendent, said the park remains concerned about how the development might impact water quality in the New River, as well as lights from the houses projecting into the gorge.

Frischkorn promised in his presentation to make the development “eco-friendly.”

But Stacy Gill, who lives near the proposed development, said, “God built this beautiful gorge, and he did not want houses to be built there.”

Frischkorn said they hope to build houses over seven to 10 years.

Gene Kistler, a member of the zoning commission, recused himself from Monday’s vote because he had been meeting with the developers. Kistler said he asked Frischkorn to limit the density of the development, and Frischkorn agreed to build no more than 160 houses. They want to build 50 houses in the first phase of the development.