County Commission to Act on RAD Petition this Month
The Pocahontas County Commission will act on the Resort Area District petition at its August 19 meeting.
Back in April, Snowshoe Mountain, Inc., filed a petition with the commission to create a Resort Area District, also known as a RAD, which would encompass Snowshoe Mountain and Silver Creek resorts. The corporation mailed signature cards to all property owners in the proposed district, requesting their vote on the issue. Only property owners inside the proposed district were allowed to vote. The corporation hired Certified Public Accountant Michael Griffith to collect and certify ballots from property owners.
In July, the commission held a special meeting to count votes from Snowshoe property owners on the proposed resort area district. In order to block the process for one year, RAD opponents had to muster 458 votes against the proposal – representing 25 percent of qualified voters. But the final tally showed 443 votes (24.2 percent) from RAD opponents. This allows the commission to move forward with approval or disapproval of the new district.
During a public comment period at the July 19th meeting, 10 affected property owners spoke against the RAD and 2 spoke in favor of it.
- David Litsey, who waged a letter-writing campaign against the Resort Area District, said that RAD provisions dealing with voting, indebtedness, and existing contracts violate the West Virginia and U.S. constitutions.
- Litsey also said several property owners had not been notified of the vote, and that the law requires notification of all owners. Accountant Michael Griffith confirmed that he had been unable to contact 42 of the 1,829 qualified voters.
- Sam Gibson stated his opinion that taxpayer money should not be used to fund corporate projects. Gibson said Snowshoe Mountain should find a way to fund necessary improvement projects, without creation of a corporate special tax district. If a Resort Area District is created, it will have the power to collect a “retail transaction fee,” and collect property assessments to fund public works projects.
- Mike Pancione said the RAD should be divided into three districts to provide equal representation on the governing board,
- Both Pancione and Richard Marker said the RAD charter should include a dissolution clause. Marker suggested a condition that would allow termination of the RAD by a majority vote, following a petition by 25 percent of property owners.
- Neal Rehberg voiced his concern that corporation management would have too much power. He said the RAD could be a “win-win” for the corporation and property owners if better checks and balances are incorporated into the charter. Under the proposed RAD framework, residential property owners would elect three members of a seven-member RAD board. Corporation management would have an initial majority of four board members, which would only change in the event of major changes in non-residential property ownership.
In response to concerns about proposed RAD bylaws, Snowshoe Mountain CEO Frank DeBerry said that preliminary bylaws, prepared by a founding committee, are “a skeleton,” and that final bylaws would be drafted and approved by elected board members.
Commissioner David Fleming praised Snowshoe’s work on the Resort Area District initiative, remarking that the process that has unfolded before them is as good as it gets. Fleming said judging the constitutionality of the RAD statute is not the Commission’s role. Instead, the role of the County Commission is to either pass the RAD or not and make sure their concerns are met.
Commissioner Jamie Walker said he needed more assurance that a Resort Area District would not affect county hotel occupancy tax collection. He said he favors a dissolution clause, but is uncertain whether the Commission has the authority to insert such a clause into the RAD charter.
Commissioner William Beard said several people had asked him about a Resort Area District’s impact on county revenue. According to Beard, a lot of people don’t understand it and they’re concerned about how this would affect the hotel/motel tax and property taxes.
The next regular County Commission meeting is scheduled for Thursday, August 7, at 8:30 a.m. The Commission will consider and act on the RAD petition during its regular meeting on August 19 at 5:30 p.m.
Thanks to Geoff Hammil of The Pocahontas Times for the information in this story.