The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

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November 5, 2012

Board OKs resort on Fayetteville’s Gaines Estate

FAYETTEVILLE — Fayetteville’s Planning and Zoning Board green-lighted plans Monday evening for Cascade Resort, a mixed-use development at the 190-acre Gaines Estate on Maple Avenue, partly within the town’s historic district.

“What you have in mind I think is good for the property,” Fayetteville Mayor Jim Akers told developers. “I’m real excited to get that thing started.”

If the board’s recommendation is approved by Fayetteville Town Council, Phase 1 of the development will include construction of 18 to 24 vacation rental houses and refurbishment of the existing Gaines Estate house, which sustained damage from a 2008 fire, into a conference center and reception hall. It also includes tentative plans to build a new conference center to host 100 or more people.

As a major snowstorm set in outside, a half dozen neighbors peppered the board and lead developer Bill Wells with questions about the project. Their concerns included a potential lowering of property values, backyard privacy, storm water issues, and the fate of the development in the case of financial failure.

“I love development, as long as it’s done the right way,” said Mary Rahall, who questioned the decision to build rental properties rather than offer home sites on “such a beautiful piece of property.”

“Maple Avenue is one of the most beautiful streets in West Virginia. I really hope that what you’re doing will enhance the beauty of the street and neighborhood,” she said.

Wells assured her that the rentals would be “classy” and “high-end,” with details like hardwood floors, wrap-around porches, flagstone patios and granite countertops. The exterior will likely be composed of Hardie Board and stone.

“We plan to build nice homes and attract the high end of the market,” he said. “This will be different from what you typically find in campgrounds.”

While neighbors worried that rental properties would lead to “10 cars in the yard” and “kayaks everywhere” at the site, Wells compared the company’s vision for the resort to The Resort at Glade Springs and The Greenbrier.

Wells said the town of Fayetteville is a “tremendous draw,” and that the resort hopes to attract families of Boy Scouts as well as those travelers who need a stop-over on north-south trips.

“I want it to be something Fayetteville can be proud of ... We don’t want anything we do to be nuisance to our neighbors,” he said.

A new two-lane access road for guests will be built at the intersection of Maple Avenue and Lively Street, as the existing driveway is unsuitable for heavy traffic. Any future development would have a new access road near Fayetteville High School, said Wells.

Wells plans to meet with the Division of Highways, which maintains Maple Avenue, to discuss the newly created 4-way intersection. A traffic study is likely.

Other neighbors raised concerns about drainage and flooding at the property, located in a swampy area known as “Frogtown.”

At last month’s Fayetteville Town Council meeting, an engineer presented the council with a drainage analysis of the Lively Street area, upstream of the culvert beneath Maple Street.

The existing culverts were found to be insufficient and in need of upgrade. The majority of the culverts are within public right of way and would not require additional right of way except for temporary construction easements.

The cost estimates come in at $325,000 or $343,000 for a 2-year, 24-hour storm event and a 10-year, 24-hour storm event, respectively. Council took no action on the issue.

Wells said the access road will be designed from the beginning to withstand a storm event.

Originally, Cascade Properties intended to convert the existing caretaker’s house on Allen Street into an office for the company, with guest check-in and light retail.

But after neighbors living adjacent to the structure expressed concerns about this component, Wells agreed on Monday to locate the office in the Gaines mansion once it is restored.

Wells said he doesn’t believe the new building construction will be visible from Maple Avenue.

Only a section of the property, including the Gaines mansion, lies within the town’s historic district. The new construction would be outside the protected district.

Cascade Properties — whose owners include Fayetteville residents Bill and Sally Wells, as well as investors from Charleston, Madison and Big Stone Gap, Va. — purchased the property in June. This is their first real estate development project.

Wells said construction will begin as soon as practical once the zoning request has been approved and financing is in place. The access road and four to six of the housing units are scheduled to be constructed during 2012-2013. Additional rental houses and the repair and remodeling of the Gaines Estate house will occur as financing permits.

Once the houses are built, Cascade will look at adding recreational facilities like a tennis court, pool, volleyball court, and disc golf course.

At Monday’s meeting, Cascade requested a zoning change from Rural Residential to Planned Development.

A Planned Development designation means Cascade will have to present plans and seek approval from the board and council before expanding into any future phases of the project.

The Planning and Zoning Board will recommend approval of the zoning change to the Fayetteville Town Council when it meets Thursday at 6 p.m. Council can accept, reject or return the recommendation for revision.

“Our goal is to help him be successful but also to protect the interests of the town,” said Planning and Zoning Board Chair Dennis Hanson of the board’s role in the affair.

Another portion of the property, across U.S. 16, running along both sides of Gatewood Road, is outside Fayetteville city limits. Any zoning changes for that portion will be requested of the county.

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