Cross Lanes Developer Creating New Housing in W.Va.

Fri January 16, 2009 - Northeast Edition
Sarah K. Winn




CROSS LANES, W.Va. (AP) Despite national news of slow home building starts, a developer in Cross Lanes is expanding, creating a gated community called Twin Lakes Estates just off Goff Mountain Road. “There is a need ... a need for a step-up into the next level of housing,’’ said Clark Lamp II, owner of Innovative Design and Construction LLC.

Lamp, who also works for Nitro Electric Co., started building Twin Lakes Estates in the spring of 2007.

Previously, he built 23 raised homes and townhouses in Myrtle Beach. When the vacation home market started to change, the St. Albans native decided to do a project closer to home.

At 27-acre Twin Lakes Estates, it’s quiet. Yet, over the hills, sits Interstate 64, the Nitro movie theater, Wal-Mart and the dog track.

Only one of the 32 lots has a house on it. The stone entrance gate has a slogan: “A home where serenity awaits you.’’ A stone pineapple, the Hawaiian sign for welcome, sits atop the gate.

The development has two lakes, concrete streets and walking trails. There are plans for a golf-cart trail over the hill to the Nitro movie theater.

The gated community has building requirements, including that homes must be at least 2,400 sq. ft. and 85 percent brick or stone. Any builder can be used, but plans must be approved. Jim Rankin, whose company Real Estate Central is helping sell the lots, said home prices will be in the $350,000 to $500,000 range.

Lot sizes range from three-tenths to a little more than one acre, Rankin said. Lots will cost $60,000 to $100,000, he said.

Realty agents Josh McGrath and Angie McCown are heading up much of the sales.

Rankin said buyers will likely be those wishing to upgrade to a larger home or those having trouble finding a similarly priced existing home in the area.

A comparable Cross Lanes subdivision, Bennington Green, is full, he said.

And the commercial market in Cross Lanes is booming. An acre-sized lot next to Real Estate Contrail’s office on Goff Mountain Road just sold for $350,000. Cross Lanes’ Holiday Inn Express just purchased two acres for $800,000, he said.

With such commercial growth and a stabilization in the Teays Valley market, the Cross Lanes residential market is becoming a hot one, he said.

Its location close to Charleston helps, he said. And, while anecdotally, Cross Lanes is known for traffic problems, Twin Lakes Estates can be accessed by both the Institute and Cross Lanes exits off I-64, he said.

So far, one home is under construction and another lot under contract, Lamp said.

The process to build the development started in spring 2007. Things went smoothly, Lamp said. The only delay had to do with an old dam on the property, which needed to be fixed, he said. That delayed things about three months.

Because the process started before the housing market started to stumble, Lamp decided to just keep working.

“Once you start something like this you have to move forward,’’ he said.

However, he and Rankin both emphasized that the West Virginia housing market is a strong one, even when it comes to home building and buying.

“There are jobs coming to this area and those people need a place to live,’’ Rankin said. “It’s just the markets with speculative buying. People are realizing the market (in West Virginia) is strong.’’

Rankin credits the local appraisers and bankers for keeping West Virginia buyers out of the housing crisis. Since appraisals are based partly on surrounding home values, an overpriced home can affect the entire area.

“Here, [appraisers] don’t let people go crazy,’’ he said.

Local lenders also tend to be more conservative, he said.

Lamp said the people looking to buy and build at Twin Lakes aren’t the ones getting into mortgage trouble.

“I think when you get into that level of home, those people aren’t affected by [the housing crisis],’’ Lamp said.

Bad economy or not, Lamp wants people to give the property a look.

“It’s just one of those things ... if everyone just sits around and worries about it, it won’t do any good,’’ he said.