Elkins annexation efforts explained
The Common Council of the City of Elkins recently adopted an ordinance proposing the annexation of three properties into the city’s municipal limits, using a process known as minor boundary adjustment. These ordinances were recommended by council’s Economic Growth and Development Committee after months of consideration and in close consultation with the city attorney and a West Virginia licensed engineer and surveyor. In my capacity as a council member and the chair of the Economic Growth and Development Committee, I wanted to share some information about the intent behind these ordinances and the process involved.
There has been some confusion about exactly which properties are proposed to be annexed. These three ordinances would annex exactly three properties: the former Texaco station (and a nearby portion of Harrison Avenue), the former Reidbord Plant located on Wilson Lane, and Tygart Valley Apartments, also located on Wilson Lane. These properties were chosen for annexation because, due to patchwork annexations near them in past decades, they are now totally surrounded by the City of Elkins. In other words, these three properties are technically in unincorporated Randolph County despite being unreachable except from inside the city.
The members of the Economic Growth and Development Committee, as well as the rest of council, felt that it was not fair for the owners of these properties to be located in–and benefit from being located in–the City of Elkins without having to join their neighboring businesses in shouldering the cost of city services. There are safety concerns as well, as this situation complicates emergency response. Council’s goal in adopting these three annexation ordinances is simply to address these safety concerns and place these three businesses on a level playing field with their neighboring businesses.
There have also been questions about the notification process we used. Prior to the vote to annex the properties, all the affected property owners were sent a letter and invited to attend an Economic Growth and Development Committee meeting to discuss the annexation. The property owners were also provided the names and phone numbers of the committee members so that the issue could be discussed prior to the vote.
There is no requirement in West Virginia law that property owners be contacted by a city prior to initiating an annexation. However, the committee members felt it was important to exceed the requirements of the law and provide the property owners notice of the city’s intent prior to taking official action. The claim that these property owners were not notified by the city is not true.
What’s next? Once the city adopts an ordinance to annex any property, it must present a petition to the Randolph County Commission and obtain its approval before the annexation takes effect. In the case of minor boundary adjustments, the county commission has the ultimate say on whether a given property is annexed. The city will soon submit its petition to the county commission and request an opportunity to present its case for these annexations to the county commission at a public meeting. It is my hope, and the hope of everyone on council, that the county commission will see this matter as the simple issue of fairness that we believe it is and approve the annexations for the benefit of the citizens and business owners of Elkins.
Robert C. Chenoweth
First Ward Elkins City Councilman and Chair of the Economic Growth & Development Committee