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County Commission Denies Rezoning of Valdeacourt Farm

The January 31, Putnam County Commission meeting was well attended for good reason. The commission revisited a rezoning request which was originally scheduled to be addressed in October. The petition asked that 130 acres owned by Valdeacourt Farm Limited Partnership be rezoned from Rural-Residential to High Density Commercial. At the October meeting, some of the parties present stated that they did not receive notification of the proposed rezoning and learned of the action from a neighbor who had discovered a small sign along the roadside. The property is located on Hurricane Creek Road between U.S. 35 and State Route 817.

Residents of the area turned out en masse to make their opposition known to the request. Speaker after speaker stated that the rezoning would change the character of the area and result in loss of property value. Sherry Wells stated that families have chosen to buy homes in the rural area because they wanted to avoid the revolving doors of Teays Valley.

Mike Samples said the rezoning would result in increased traffic and longer waits at the intersection of Hurricane Creek Road and U.S. 35. Samples cited the two different fatal accidents at the junction since the opening of the new 35.

Opponents stated that the rezoning would hurt many and benefit only one individual. That one individual, Courtland Smith, addressed the commission and the rezoning opponents. Smith stated that the property had been in his family for 80 years and that change happens. Before U.S. 35, families living in Fraziers Bottom had the choice of buying groceries in Point Pleasant or St. Albans. Smith pointed to a 2014 “Bridging the Future” Plan which designated the 130 acres as property which should be developed. Smith stated that the rezoning would allow the utility (Union Oil and Gas) which his family owns has need of property which has convenient access to its customers and that the 130 acres is ideally located for that purpose.

After Smith finished his presentation, one lady directly addressed him and said, “I knew your dad, bought hay from him. This is not something which he would have wanted.” Her words were followed by a lengthy applause.

Leland Brown stated that the rezoning, if approved, would allow any of the many uses permitted for High Density Commercial usage.

After the close of the public hearing, the commissioners stated how or how not the rezoning would benefit the county. Commissioner Ellis stated that there is a shortage of land which is suitable for commercial development and that the rezoning would benefit the county as a whole. Commissioner Deweese stated that the rezoning was wrong because of the safety issues that would be created. Commissioner Skidmore agreed with Ellis on the need for more developable land but that the jump from Rural-Residential to High Density Commercial was too great and he voted “No.”

In other business, the commission proclaimed January 31, 2023 to be Gabe Garrison Day in Putnam County. The honor was in recognition of Garrison having been named distinguished graduate, first in class, at the Air Force Tech School and having transferred into the United States Space Force in October of 2020, and subsequently, becoming the first West Virginian to be honorably discharged from the Space Force.

The commission opened bids for masonry restoration of the courthouse. The procedure called for a base bid and an additional alternative for gutter lining. Buckeye Construction Restoration provided a bid of $132,199.00 with alternative of $20,166.00; Coon Restoration & Sealant’s base bid was $154,218.00 with alternative of $43,500.00; and Trisco Systems submitted a base bid of $110,905.00 and alternative of $43,084.00. The commission tabled action on awarding a contract. Commissioner Skidmore asked that bid details be reviewed because the county plans on having both masonry and gutter work done.

Tim Hanna informed the commission that the Recreation Enhancement Fund had received requests totaling $160,000 from six entities but only $84,000 available to give out. Submitting requests were: City of Winfield – $18,400 to address a safety issue at the river bank; Town of Buffalo – $24,800 for a pickelball court near the Senior Center; Town of Bancroft – funding of upgrades to the town park; Town of Eleanor – $19,646 for beautification and upgrades fat the town park; Town of Poca – $37,383.20 for playground improvements which include ADA compliance; Putnam County Fair – $9,677.00 for barn repair.

The commission opted to postpone funding decisions in hope that revenue can be made available from sources separate from the Recreation Fund.

The commission voted to approve a request of the City of Hurricane to have its city election merged with the off-year General Election beginning in 2026. Filing for city office will be handled by the County Clerk. Hurricane will be joining Bancroft, Buffalo, Poca and Winfield which now have their elections handled by the County Clerk.

At the opening of its regular meetings, the Putnam County Commission provides attendees the opportunity to speak on items which are not listed on the meeting agenda. On Tuesday, January 31, Jim McDade, the commander of American Legion Post 187, asked the commission for permission to place a Gold Star Family Memorial Monument in the county. McDade stated that it would be a big undertaking in that initial costs would be $50,000 to $60,000. McDade said that infrastructure costs would be low if the monument were to be placed at War Memorial at the Winfield Bridge. The total cost of the project could be in the neighborhood of $80,000. McDade emphasized that he was not seeking financial support for the project at this time.

Mark White addressed commission regarding the failure of Harold Cathey to clean up property on Scary Creek as ordered by the county commission. Mr. White was informed that standard practice will be for the county to hire a contractor to clean up the property and then place a lien on the property for the cost. The county will act as soon as it is determined that proper notices have been given.

The next scheduled commission meeting will be Tuesday, February 14.

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