Pocahontas County Commission Learns about “Comprehensive Plan” Advantages
Professor Jesse Richardson from the WVU College of Law’s Land Use and Sustainable Development Law Clinic made a presentation to the Pocahontas County Commission urging them to adopt a County Comprehensive Plan. He started by explaining what a Comprehensive plan does not require.
“I guess first I’ll say what a Comprehensive Plan is not, it is not zoning” said Richardson. “Zoning is one tool that you can use to implement a comprehensive plan, but we understand that’s not on the radar for Pocahontas County, and that’s fine. We’re also working in McDowell County, they’re not going to have zoning but we’re doing a countywide comprehensive Plan for them. We’re working in Doddridge County; they’re not going to have zoning. So zoning is not really part of this.”
Richardson explained that a Comprehensive plan is really nothing more than a “vision” of where the county wants to be in 10 years. This starts by determining what the county’s current land use is, than sets a goal of where the land use in the county should be 10 years in the future and finally sets goals needed to be accomplished to get there. He said that this vision is determined by the residents of the county, not by politicians, and land use goals are not binding on landowners. That vision is determined through numerous public meetings and discussions. His law clinic is willing to run these public forums and help citizens develop the vision, and can guide the entire process – all at no charge to the county or its residents. The process can take about a year to complete, but there are advantages to having a comprehensive plan. These include increasing the chances of obtaining money for the county through State and Federal Grants, increasing economic development, preparing for natural disasters and using planning to help budget limited resources in more efficient ways.
The Clinic would be willing to conduct public forums to see if county residents would support doing a Comprehensive Plan, and the Commissioners indicated that they would be interested to know if the public would want a Comprehensive Plan. No specific actions were authorized about this by the Commission as yet.
Sam Gibson addressed the Commission about his concerns about the unsafe way the WV Department of Highways schedules and does their road construction and repair projects. He talked specifically about a bridge on US 219 near the Elk River Touring Center. In early November the Department of Highways took out one of the two lanes of the bridge creating a one lane choke point on the major road to Snowshoe. After tearing out one lane of the bridge, the Department of Highways has left the site, apparently until Spring before replacing it. He is concerned that the one lane may be too narrow for snow plows, that traffic is only controlled by stop signs which can be missed because of the curves on the approaches to the bridge which could result in major accidents which could close down access to Snowshoe during the height of Skiing season. Commission President Bill Beard explained that the County Commission has no direct control over the Department of Highways and suggested Sam organize a letter writing campaign to the State Department of Highways. Sam feels that in the future, the Commission, as the people’s representatives, should liaise with the State to learn about these projects in advance, and provide input to the Department of Highways about the safety and possible economic ramifications of such construction projects.
In other actions, the Commission voted to return ownership of the former Slavin property in Green Bank to the Board of Education, since the Commission’s Attorney, Bob Martin, expressed his opinion that transferring the property to the Greenbrier Valley Economic Development Corporation could have violated the deed restrictions on the property.
Representatives of the Frost, Cass and BFD volunteer Fire Departments appeared before the Commission to discuss disagreements among them about fire response boundaries. The Commission was reluctant to get involved in these disputed since the State Fire Marshall’s Office is attempting to settle this. The Commissioners expressed concerns about the possible liability risks the County could incur if it overruled the Fire Marshall’s findings on this.
The Commission approved the hiring of Travis Cook as a full-time 911 Dispatcher/911 Mapping and Addressing Assistant and Deputy Director of the Office of Emergency Management at $12.00 per hour and full benefits.
In a final action, the Commissioners appointed Jennifer Barlow to a three year term on the Emergency Medical Services Authority.