Pocahontas Residents Split On Need For Comprehensive Planning
Marlinton, WV – If you were keeping score at the Community Planning meeting this past Monday, you would observe that those who spoke against the need for comprehensive community planning outweighed those in favor – but only slightly.
The meeting, hosted by the Pocahontas County Commission, began with a potluck dinner with background music provided by Erica and Paolo Marks. After dinner, Commission President Martin Saffer opened up the floor to those who wanted to comment. Pocahontas County Free Libraries Director Allen Johnson was the first to speak, offering his reasons for supporting community planning.
“It’s hard for me to imagine a large city without planning” says Johnson. “I think in a rural area, we don’t have quite the pressure, but we do have issues involving water quality, air, soil, things like that. Planning should reflect both the needs of our private landowners as well as the community needs.”
Johnson doesn’t necessarily equate community planning with zoning. He says West Virginia already has zoning laws on the books such as hospital quiet zones.
Snowshoe CEO Bill Rock agrees with Johnson that planning could be beneficial to the county. As a consequence of living in several locations around the country, he’s seen both good and bad examples of community planning, and says Pocahontas is in a unique situation.
“We’re not at the leading edge of this, we’re at the tail edge, so all the mistakes that have been made, we can know before we make them” he says. “A smart man learns from his own mistakes, but a wise man learns from somebody elses.”
Speaking forcefully against any kind of comprehensive planning, Norman Alderman accused the Commission of using planning as a backdoor way to bring zoning to the county. He asked Commissioners Martin Saffer and David Fleming to publicly pledge that they will not institute zoning in the county – neither offered any comment on that request.
John Leyzorek also spoke passionately against planning, on the grounds that it could give government too much control over citizens’ lives.
Landowner Charles Wilfong agrees, saying even the idea of planning to plan is not really effective unless the Commission is willing to create ordinances to enforce any new regulations.
“I don’t want half a handful of people in the courthouse determining exactly what I’m going to do on my property and how I’m going to manage my land. I don’t think a lot of other folks in this county want that either” says Wilfong.
In the end, of those who spoke, four were against planning, three for it, while the rest take a more neutral wait-and-see attitude. This topic is sure to be discussed further in future by the County Commission.