By Heather Clower
The Parsons Advocate
The courtroom was bustling with residents from all corners of Tucker County in search of answers regarding an ordinance proposal during the Tucker County Commission session. Prior to the input from the citizens, everyone stood and recited The Pledge of Allegiance after Father Timothy Grassi provided the opening prayer. Chief Deputy M.J Sigley was present in anticipation of the meeting getting controversial over the Subdivision and Land Development Ordinance that has recently been the central topic of public town hall meetings.
OEM Director Kevin White gave his report first due to scheduling conflicts. He reported a mass communication system is in development in coordination with 911 Director, Brett Ware. It is an optional alert system where those who elect to participate will receive either a voice call via cell or landline, text, or email in case of an emergency. The resident will be able to select the type of alerts he or she wish to receive and the system can also localize alerts to particular areas. In the case of a significant emergency, the system can reach everyone in the county regardless of participation. This would only be in extreme danger circumstances, such as a confirmed tornado on the ground.
Prior to addressing the public concerns, Commission President Lowell Moore informed the crowd that the April 17 meeting has been canceled and made it known that the proposal for the Subdivision and Land Development Ordinance has not been brought to the commission yet for consideration. Moore then asked Ben Herrick, President of the Planning Commission, to briefly explain the thought process behind this proposal.
Herrick began by stating, “It is not a land use ordinance or a zoning ordinance, those are set up to tell people what they can do on their property,” which he said they (The Planning Commission) have no intentions of doing. “It’s your property, you do with it what you want,” he said. Herrick explained the purpose behind this proposed ordinance is to prevent another situation such as Tuscan Ridge, where several lots were sold off and are unable to be developed for various reasons. He announced a meeting for the following evening at 6 p.m. located at Davis Town Hall for a special meeting to aid in the understanding of what the ordinance entails prior to presenting to the county commission. Unfortunately, Herrick had to leave early and could not remain at the meeting long for answering questions, so he urged everyone to attend the public meeting.
Moore went down the list of those signed in wishing to speak. Judy Fairbanks was first and referred to issues witnessed in Morgantown with houses built nearly on top of each other, but expressed concerned regarding an ordinance stating how they often begin with good intentions however they quickly turn negative.
Betty Knicely expressed her opinion of the proposal being “sneaky” and was dissatisfied with the fact that most people serving on the voluntary board were not life long residents of the county. Knicely told the commission, “Until they (the Planning Commission) pay my taxes, I don’t want them stepping foot on my property and try to manage my property.” Knicely assured the Commissioners and the Planning Commission that if this proposal went through, they’d each be receiving a letter from her attorney.
James Nelson, owner of approximately 400 acres in the county, addressed the Commissioners as well. His thoughts were that this ordinance would be ruining the residents of the county and could cause a “civil war over this thing.”
Several others continued to share their concerns over the topic and their disapproval of the intentions of the plan. Debbie Stevens gave prime examples regarding the issues it would cause the real estate agencies and the rentals in the Valley. This will become an additional issue with the lack of a hotel in Tucker County and how home owners rent out their homes during the timeframes they are not residing in them. “I have to say right now, without more information; I would not find that advantageous for the public with what I know now.”
Commissioner Patrick Darling explained the process of how the Planning Commission members were appointed. It is a voluntary board of seven members and it is via application process. “Anyone can fill out an application to be on it,” explained Darlington. The room began to become heated when Chief Deputy M.J. Sigley announced order would be kept or he would be asking individuals to exit the meeting.
Faith Moore, resident of a development, didn’t necessarily agree or disagree with the proposed ordinance, however she did state she wanted some type of protection from others coming in and ruining what she owns and takes pride in caring for. Before ending the public comment session, Moore reiterated this draft ordinance has yet to come to the Commissioners for review and approval or denial.
Moving on with the morning’s agenda, the previous meeting minutes were approved before addressing the Clower Family. They were present to request April be proclaimed Autism Awareness and Acceptance Month, which Darlington continued to read the resolution. It was unanimously agreed upon to approve this request. For more information on the cause, visitwww.AutismSpeaks.org
Faith Moore was also present to request funding assistance for the Mountaineer Garden Club to obtain a Blue Star Memorial to be placed in Mill Race Park in honor of past, present, and future veterans. Moore explained the program and how most counties in WV participate yet Tucker County has not to date. The commission supported this project and donated $100 to the cause with promise to aid in donation assistance.
US Census Partnership Specialist Carol Cain Bush took the floor to spread the word about the upcoming 2020 census and its importance. Spreading the word now regarding how and when to take the census is crucial in obtaining accurate results which is where they request the assistance of local government officials. It is recommended for a committee to be formed to assist in the census to ensure proper information is being circulated.
Prosecuting Attorney Ray LaMora was the first to offer an Elected Officials report, stating “we’re staying very, very busy with circuit and magistrate court.” He commented an unfortunate heavy abuse and neglect caseload as well as commended the Community Corrections Program for their work. County Clerk Sherry Simmons offered gratitude towards the ladies in her office on their work dedicated to the board members lists and expiration dates. She informed the ad for the transfer taxes has run in The Parsons Advocate which will only affect deed transfers. Simmons stated they have received the official approval on the preliminary budget and they have also begun preparations for the 2020 election.
Employee Reports commenced with an update from 911 Director Brett Ware. He has been working towards becoming a Red Cross Training Facility at the 911 Center allowing them to provide CPR, First Aid, and other training. Plans are underway for conducting a Red Cross Shelter Course and he is meeting with Motorola in regards to the new phone system. Ware also announced the second full week of April is celebrated as National 911 Telecommunication Week. “Our 911 dispatchers do an incredible job not only locally but nationally,” he said. “They are the very first, first responders to any type of crisis you might have,” he explained, “Unfortunately it’s quite a thankless job.” However, Ware is very committed to standing behind the Tucker County employees and thanking them for their hard work and dedication. Moore then moved to declare April 14-20 as National 911 Telecommunication Week and was approved.
County Planner Dennis Filler reported his work on making revisions to the EMS ordinance that will be presented. “Building season has started, the weather has broken, so four development permits have been issued so far,” he said. Work is ongoing for the USDA grant to conduct a survey declaring the needs for broadband in our county and every resident is strongly urged to participate to help this cause. Filler is also working on a $5,000 grant to supplement funds budgeted for a litter control and management program in the county.
No correspondences were presented, though there were two applicants for Christopher Cassidy and Christopher Pase to join the 911 Advisory Board, both to serve two year terms. Both were approved bringing this board to seven members with the goal to secure two more to join. First and Final Estate Waivers were reviewed by LaMora and approved by the commissioners and the levy rate meeting was set for April 16, 2019. Two erroneous assessments were reviewed and approved as well as payments.
Commissioner Reports consisted of Davis informing that the recycling facility at the landfill will be opening in two weeks, followed by an announcement by Darlington regarding his resignation. “An opportunity presented itself that I can’t refuse and I will be resigning my commission position effective May 31,” he stated.
There was no need for an Executive Session therefore the meeting was adjourned. The next meeting of the Tucker County Commission will be Wednesday, April 24 at 4 p.m. at the Tucker County Courthouse. The public is always welcome and encouraged to attend.