Zoning Issues

16 Sep

By Tristan Webster

On September 16th, the Monongalia County Commission met as it does every Wednesday to openly discuss plans and operations with the citizens of Monongalia County, but this meeting set itself apart from other Commission sessions. The commissioners went through their regular agenda, holding one particular piece of business for last.  After getting through talk about grants and budget management, the County Commission finally called to order a zoning ordinance issue out in West Run, a region of Monongalia County north of the Morgantown Airport.

Dan Ryan Builders wants to buy thirty acres of land out in West Run to build houses.  The developers wishing to buy the land want to put down 40 houses, however the zoning regulations wouldn’t allow that many houses to be built in that space.  In order to meet its goal, Dan Ryan Builders applied to the County Commission to have the entire fifty acres of land rezoned to allow more houses to be built.  However, the building company was unable to convince the commissioners to approve the rezoning that day.

Rezoning cannot take place yet because Dan Ryan Builders clearly didn’t do their homework.  They came to the meeting probably hoping to get permission to rezone without a fight, but the Monongalia County Commission, or at least Commissioner Callen, thought otherwise.  First off, Dan Ryan Builders went to the County Commission in order to exploit a loophole.  The citizens of West Run voted the current zoning ordinance into law in 2007.  If the Dan Ryan Builders can convince the commission to overrule the current zoning ordinance, they won’t have to hold a mandatory election by the West Run citizens as it is stated in the zoning ordinance.  But Dan Ryan Builders failed to produce any evidence that the rezoning would be a necessity to the health, safety or general well being of the citizens, as it is stated in the ordinance.  Second, there is no reason that Dan Ryan Builders cannot look elsewhere to plan a development.  There is a need for housing, but this isn’t the only available land in Monongalia County. And third, the decision does not rest on the shoulders of the County Commission alone.  The zoning ordinance were drafted, voted on and belong to the citizens of West Run.  The commissioners have an obligation to respect those ordnances and not change them every time a contracting company wants to build houses.

After two hours of discussion the commissioners decided to view the property and the surrounding area.  They want to get a better idea of what the land I like geographically and how rezoning may affect the surrounding area.  After the meeting I met with Commissioner Callen and he pointed out something left out of the discussion.  At the meeting, a topographical map of West Run was presented as a visual aid.  Though a map can be helpful, it can also be deceiving.  Dan Ryan Builders claim they only plan to build on the flat area and not in the area with hills.  However, Commissioner Callen can read topographical maps very well and he points out that the hills in the West Run property are no steeper than the hills of some of the houses built in Westover.  It is very possible that Dan Ryan Builders can construct homes on those hills, so the initially promised 40 houses may become 160 houses in the future.  Adding all of those houses will increase traffic, and the roads are narrow enough as it is.  Commissioner Callen referred to West Run’s infrastructure as “simple farm roads” where two school buses can’t pass each other.  There were many other factors involved in rezoning, and the commissioners mean to look into all of them.  A decision about the zoning ordinance will be made on the October 7th County Commission meeting.

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