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Berkeley County authority sees land sale windfall

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. – While a new Procter & Gamble manufacturing facility in Berkeley County will have multiple benefits for the county and state, the announcement also provides a new opportunity for the Berkeley County Development Authority.

Development Authority board members met Wednesday to discuss how the organization’s land sale with P&G has provided new life for the group, in budget and in its directive.

The Development Authority now has an available budget of $10,335,000, although there are several payments pending. With the land sale, the Development Authority will have a stability it was lacking, said Stephen Christian, executive director.

“We’ve run this organization on a shoestring budget,” Christian said. “We’ve run it on these highs and lows where we’re able to sell a piece of property and put money in the bank. That will last for a while, and then we’re back to hoping to get another land deal.”

In addition to providing financial stability, he said the land sale revenues will allow the Development Authority to become more of an economic force in the county and region.

“For us as an organization, it represents a completely new beginning in which we’re going to be able to do things we’ve never been able to do before,” Christian said. “We’re going to have a security we’ve never had before in which we’re going to be able to help our business community and become the dynamic engine of growth that the organization has never had the opportunity to be.”

Since selling the property, the Development Authority has paid off multiple bonds and loans associated with the Tabler Station Business Park worth more than $1.1 million and unanimously agreed to repay a loan from the Berkeley County Council worth about $375,000.

Additionally, board members agreed to not request any funding from the Berkeley County Council or the Martinsburg City Council for the upcoming 2015-16 funding cycle, which would have been a combined request of $90,000.

Now that the authority has a healthy bank account, President Anthony “Tony” Zelenka believes it is even more important for the group to update its strategic business plan and review potential investment options.

“The strategic plan, with the sale of the property, the mission statement is probably all that’s applicable at this point in time, and there needs to be a strategic plan,” Zelenka said. “We have the option now to do a whole lot of different things rather than having a meeting to discuss whether we’re going to make payroll next week or not. Those are nice issues and problems to have.”

One of the potential uses for the revenue of the land sale that members discussed was to look at buying available parcels of property in the Cumbo Yard Industrial Park. The Development Authority is looking at several parcels available for purchase to increase the amount of acreage available in the business park.

One of the parcels of land being considered is a 67-acre parcel directly across from the Macy’s facility, for about $1.1 million. Although the parcel’s topography would require significant site preparation, the property already has baseline infrastructure underneath it, water, power, gas and sewer, and it has access to improved roads, Christian said.

The total approximate value of all the parcels under consideration is $3 million.

However, the decision to purchase the parcels is due by March 7, so in order to do its due diligence, the organization will be requesting an extension by the current property owners to consider the proposal. If an extension is not granted, the authority will be calling a special meeting to discuss the potential purchase.

– Staff writer Samantha Cronk can be reached at 304-263-8931, ext. 132, or

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