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Sunnyside property owners at odds with city

MORGANTOWN — It’s not every day you deliberately pull your vehicle in front of a steamroller. 

Jamie Craig, of Blue Sky Realty, and his father, James Craig, have been there.

They say that’s ultimately what it took to stop a project that resulted in the city of Morgantown shifting Alley D, in Sunnyside, onto some 3,000 square-feet of their property.

This is the same project that resulted in a pending lawsuit filed by Darin Glitz, who also owns property off Alley D. Glitz is a Pennsylvania Department of Transportation engineer who provides engineering services for Blue Sky Realty.

“Let me tell you what the city knows but hates to admit. There is no agreement, and there never was,” Jamie Craig says, standing in mud and gravel between two paved portions of the canted alley. “Anyone can come see the proof. The paving stopped right here, and a year and a half later, it still stops right here.”

For the Craigs, Alley D is the topper on a years-long grievance against the city for its handling of TIF-funded improvements in Sunnyside.

In 2017, Campus Neighborhoods Revitalization Corp, previously Sunnyside Up, wrote Blue Sky Realty a $50,000 check — after the fact — for curbing off private property that had served as a parking spac

In 2015, University Avenue was blocked off for nearly six months to serve as a construction staging area in service of WVU and American Campus Communities, who were collaborating on U Place Sunnyside and the nearby University Place parking garage.

That garage now feeds into a five-way intersection.

“You and I are not engineers, but just look at this.” James Craig says, motioning to the intersection of University Avenue, Beverly Avenue, 3rd Street and the University Place garage. “I can’t turn my F-150 onto Beverly without running up on the curb. Now go ask the fire department what they think about it. All approved by city engineering. You just have to shake your head.”

As for Alley D, Morgantown Communications Manager Andrew Stacy said that as part of the $3 million TIF project, the city reached a verbal agreement with Blue Sky Realty and, on more than one occasion, was assured that an easement agreement had been signed, but not delivered, despite requests from the city.

In April of 2019, the city adopted an ordinance outlining its intention to shift the alley right-of-way and transfer a portion of the previous alley right-of-way to Blue Sky Realty.

Even so, Stacy admits, “The city proceeded with the construction project without receiving the signed easement agreement.”

Stacy said the city remains willing to reach an agreement with the realty company and will remove infrastructure placed on Blue Sky’s property, if given permission.

He also said the project was closed out last fall.

One glaring issue with that, Glitz explained, is that instead of crowning the alley, so water sheds off in both directions, the alley was engineered as an inverse V, meaning the water is funneled to the center of the right-of-way and into storm drops, which were left standing taller than the grade of the alley.

The Craigs say their alley grievances ended up resulting in the city eliminating Beverly Avenue curb cuts for their properties. Stacy said that’s not the case, pointing out that one non-permitted curb cut was removed as it didn’t offer enough depth to allow safe parking out of the public right-of-way.
Either way, James Craig explained, the issue will likely be meted out in court.

“I’m old-school,” he said. “You tell me you’re going to do something, and I tell you I’m going to do something. I do it, and if I can’t, I come back and tell you, ‘I can’t do it.’ That’s not how this city operates – not anymore. They just do it and say, ‘Sue me.’ Well, I guess that’s where we’re at.”

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