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Town considers taking action against developer over streets,

By Sally Voth -- svoth@nvdaily.com

EDINBURG -- The Town Council is once again mulling action against the developer of the troubled Edinburg Square subdivision.

The streets in the half-finished subdivision remain private. And that's how they'll stay unless residents agree to adjust their property lines to either bring the sidewalks all the way in or all the way out of their property. The decision must be pretty much unanimous.

That's the requirement of the Virginia Department of Transportation for it to take over the roads, residents learned at a public meeting on Aug. 4. Leaving the sidewalks within the property lines makes the homeowners responsible for maintenance and for liability.

United Bank, which is contemplating foreclosing on three lots within the neighborhood, raised the ire of some residents by asking one of them to take around new plats for the others to sign. For that, the bank's president, Don Unger, apologized, saying he "assumed that everybody knew what the situation was." He has directed the bank's attorney to draft a letter homeowners can show their mortgage holders in the hope any fees associated with changing the plats would be waived.

At Tuesday's council meeting, Mayor-Town Manager Dan Harshman said the town hadn't yet received the letter.

Edinburg Square developer Jamie Gore has a $310,000 letter of credit ensuring infrastructure is properly installed, Harshman said after the meeting.

"The bank's gambling on him completing the project properly and that this will never be any more than a piece of paper, but, if it's called, it immediately becomes a debt that is due and payable to the bank," Harshman said.

During the council meeting, Harshman said he wanted Town Attorney Kevin Black to research whether the letter of credit applied in this case. He also said that United Bank put the town in a position of having to protect the bank's interests.

"Our job is to hold the developer responsible," Harshman said. "I just kind of feel like why are we stepping to the plate for the bank."

Councilman Clyde Beachy said maybe the letter of credit could go to compensate residents' loss of square footage from their property.

"Kudos because that's exactly what I think we as residents had hoped to hear, and to see the town and the council really taking a very proactive position in this thing," homeowner Arnold Mitchell said. "If you really want to ease the pain, if there's any way of working out some kind of compensation formula ... I would think that would resolve the issue completely because nobody would have a reason then not to sign onto this."

According to minutes from the July 14 Town Council meeting, the average resident would lose 50-200 square feet, with some giving up as little as 8 square feet, and one homeowner losing 751 square feet.

This is not the first time Gore has been out of compliance with the town.

When he failed to install historic street lights in the neighborhood, Harshman said after the meeting, the town threatened to pull the line of credit.

"He came through with a check," Harshman said.

The same scenario unfolded when the site wasn't being maintained and mowed, Harshman said, and with erosion and sediment control issues, as well as the road paving and sidewalks being incomplete.

Gore couldn't be reached for comment.

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