Elkins Council tables strategic plan

ELKINS — Elkins City Council had planned to vote on a proposed five-year strategic plan on Thursday night, but instead voted to table the ordinance until their next meeting.

Earlier in Thursday’s meeting, several business owners presented council members with a letter opposing annexation of businesses on the Beverly Five-lane — which is one of the many goals discussed in the proposed strategic plan. The letter was signed by representatives of 32 businesses in the area.

Businesses whose representatives signed the letter include Elkins Motor Sports, Elkins General Rental, Seneca Satellite, the Wooden Hanger, Serendipity, Charles E. Triplett, C.P.A., Cupp’s Furniture, Valley Business Systems, Sonny’s Carpet, Total Training Fitness, Kids Korner Daycare, Bargain Boutique, All American Auto Center, Valley Rent-A-Car, Triangle Heating & Cooling, Hershman Auto Sales, Glotfelty Tire Center, Bates Carpet, Elza Cycle, Novus Glass, Newlon’s International Sales, Elkins Equipment Co., Bumbi Salon, Precision Pre-Owned Auto, K&K Collision & Towing, KMK Properties, McWilliams Buildings, America’s Mattress, Water Works Pools & Spa, Crazy Harry’s Market, Crazy Harry’s Greenhouse and Duke’s Steakhouse.

The letter states, “All of, but not limited to, the following businesses, and representatives of said businesses, oppose annexation, by any means, into the city limits of Elkins, West Virginia.”

The letter was presented to city officials during the public comment section of Thursday’s meeting. Chad Newlon, of Newlon’s International Sales, also asked council members for more information about their annexation goals, beyond what is stated in the proposed strategic plan.

“What area are you looking at?” Newlon asked, but was told by City Clerk Jessica Sutton that council members were not required to respond to questions from those making public comment.

Phil Cupp, of Cupp’s Furniture, also spoke during the public comment section, saying, “It seems the annexation issue is a reoccurring thing… We aren’t in favor of annexation or additional taxes. We certainly want the city to flourish… (but) the reason we’re against being annexed into the city… (is) we don’t see any services for the taxes we would have to pay that would benefit us.”

The proposed plan’s Strategic Focus Area No. 5 lays out steps the city could follow for “exploration of city boundary expansion opportunities.”

“Properties outside city limits offer the potential for economic growth and expansion,” the proposed plan states, and suggests identifying “target areas” by April 2019, gauging “public interest in annexation through public forums” by May, developing ” a plan to approach property owners for voluntary annexation” by August, and developing “a follow-up plan for properties unwilling to voluntarily annex” by September 2019.

Later in Thursday’s meeting, Sutton read excerpts from written comments about the proposed strategic plan that have been presented to the city, as well as several comments taken from phone conversations about the proposed plan. In all, Sutton read or described excerpts of commentary from 17 individuals.

After Sutton read from the comments, Second Ward Councilman Charles Friddle made a motion “that we table action on the strategic plan until the next meeting.” Friddle said he believed council needed more time to read through all the submitted comments.

“We’ll just take a couple weeks to digest all the comments and think on it,” First Ward Councilman Bob Woolwine said.

All eight council members present voted to table the matter. Third Ward Councilman Chris Lowther and Fourth Ward Councilwoman Marly Hazen were not present at Thursday’s meeting.

The 18-page proposed strategic plan offers a list of projects, action items and target dates for accomplishing goals by 2023.

Elkins city officials first began discussing the idea of creating a strategic plan in December. The city held a planning session led by facilitator Tom Heywood in February.

Council discussions about strategic planning took place at five separate Elkins City Council meetings between March and June. Heywood returned to lead a “wrap-up session” with city officials in July.

The city held a public forum on the proposed plan on Aug. 22 at the Randolph County Community Arts Center to garner public feedback.

The next Elkins City Council meeting will be Sept. 20 at 7 p.m. at City Hall.