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WVU, city and bank working on revitalization deal

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- West Virginia University, the city of Morgantown and First United Bank and Trust are working on a deal aimed at revitalizing run-down neighborhoods around the downtown campus. The proposed agreement announced Tuesday during a City Council meeting calls for WVU to acquire 4 acres from the city where four politically connected but now-bankrupt developers proposed but never built The Square at Falling Run. The university also would acquire another 21 acres with rental properties, three other lots and an unoccupied apartment building in the area from other parties, paying a total $9.7 million. WVU would pay the city $4.3 million over the next 14 years, with additional payments to the bank of approximately $5.2 million over 20 years. Under the proposed agreement, McCoy 6 LLC and its principals -- brothers Kris, Ben, Monty and Mac Warner -- would drop their long-running harassment lawsuit against the city in U.S. District Court. The deal must be approved by WVU's Board of Governors, the city and other governmental agencies. It would require WVU to develop at least 20,000 square feet of commercial space near its downtown campus and build new housing in another blighted area of the city, College Park Apartments. The agreement also requires WVU to help the city solicit $1 million in grants to expand the Morgantown Municipal Airport, to allow easement access to the Morgantown Housing Authority and to help the city develop a separate 13-acre tract for future development.
"Allowing WVU to clean up and develop this area is really the best possible scenario for the city,'' said City Manager Terrance Moore. WVU "has always been a good steward of the public's trust,'' he said, "and has a proven track record in smart growth and development.''WVU President Jim Clements said he hopes the project will become a national model for town-gown partnerships. Last summer, a federal judge threw out all but three counts in the Warners' lawsuit against the city's police and fire and code inspectors.Judge Irene Keeley said at the time that former state GOP Chairman Kris Warner and his brothers could pursue individual claims that they were subjected to outrageous conduct, but their corporations could not.The city has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing. The Warners argued that McCoy 6 was treated differently than other developers doing business in the city at the time. In court documents, the brothers detailed a harassment scheme they said started in 2006, eventually bankrupting their businesses and ruining their reputations.The brothers' strategy of buying run-down housing, renovating it and renting it out again was misrepresented to give the impression they were "slum lords,'' Mac Warner argued in one court filing.The lawsuit claimed the city was unfair in its enforcement, accusing inspectors of repetitious and excessive inspections, vague and arbitrary citations, and "harsh, unnecessary and unreasonable remediation orders'' that were often delivered orally rather than in writing.
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