Mar. 24—PRINCETON — After listening Tuesday night to residents who had considerations and others who supplied help, the Mercer County Fee unanimously accredited the third and closing studying of an deserted and dilapidated constructing ordinance.
Utilizing authority granted by Chapter 7, Article 1, Part 3ff of the West Virginia Code, the brand new ordinance permits the county authorities to handle “sure deserted and severely dilapidated buildings” that may be discovered standing all through Mercer County. The county fee had two earlier public hearings, one throughout its common assembly in February and a second on March 9. Each of these conferences have been carried out on Zoom and Fb Stay as a precaution towards COVID-19, however Tuesday’s public listening to was carried out in particular person in addition to on the web.
Residents began arriving for the 6 p.m. assembly within the fee’s chamber within the Mercer County Courthouse, nevertheless it was moved to the close by courtroom of Circuit Courtroom Choose William Sadler so social distancing may very well be maintained. Nearly 30 folks attended.
County Fee President Gene Buckner opened the assembly by telling the viewers that it was the ordinances’ third and closing public listening to. He emphasised that the ordinance addressed solely deserted and dilapidated constructions.
“This ordinance has nothing about zoning, nothing about constructing permits,” he stated. “We’re not touching farmlands and farm buildings. This ordinance is only for dilapidated and deserted constructions.”
Members of the general public who signed up previous to the assembly may handle the county fee for about three minutes. Some audio system voiced their help for the ordinance whereas others had considerations. The primary speaker, Jack Pennington of Mercer County, stated he was towards any ordinance handed by the fee.
Pennington stated that he had autos on his property which can be registered in West Virginia, and he wished to know if these autos can be taken “with out compensation.” Buckner replied that if a property proprietor has 5 autos that aren’t licensed and inspected, then a fence should be put round them.
Pennington additionally requested what was thought of a farm beneath the ordinance. Buckner stated that if the property is listed as a farm on the Mercer County Clerk’s Workplace, it’s thought of a farm.
One other citizen, Mike Hague of Bluefield, stated he retired in Mercer County about two years in the past and is at the moment restoring his dad and mom’ house, and that he supported the proposed ordinance.
“I feel the ordinance appears to be like like a terrific factor for the group to make it extra stunning,” he instructed the commissioners. “I need to get pleasure from my retirement in a stupendous space.”
Skip Crane, president of the Bluewell Space Enchancment Affiliation, stated he has been a member of the Mercer County Planning Fee and acknowledged that, “it is a particularly reasonable ordinance.”
Crane stated that the planning fee labored on the ordinance a number of years and addressed the considerations of farmers and different residents whereas drafting it. One of many ordinance’s targets is to make the county extra engaging to out-of-state guests.
“We wish our county to be good,” Crane stated. “When folks are available, they discuss unhealthy about West Virginia. We wish them to see that that is virtually heaven, that it is stunning. And proper now, it is trying just a little tough, however we’ll have a clear up. We will clear up this county.”
Lifelong Mercer County resident Linda Augustosky stated that she cherished the world and wished to make it “extra stunning.” She stated that she has traveled to Hawaii and different states, however has not discovered one which matches her house state’s magnificence; nevertheless, she is embarrassed by the deserted constructions.
“Now we will do one thing about it,” she stated. “I need to thank the committee and the fee for making an attempt to make this higher. I hope that you’ll all help this ordinance.”
Different residents who had signed as much as communicate had reservations. Billy Stables Jr. of Matoaka, who stated that he was towards the ordinance, had considerations similar to what may very well be outlined as a junked automobile. Beneath the definitions listed within the ordinance, a junked car is one “which is discarded, wrecked, ruined, scrapped or dismantled which might not cross the State of West Virginia motorized vehicle inspection legal guidelines and which isn’t serving an inexpensive purposeful use or objective and isn’t inside an enclosed constructing.”
Stables stated he was additionally involved about aged individuals who have small month-to-month incomes and reside in substandard houses that they can not afford to restore.
“There’s lots of people dwelling on $700 a month,” he stated. “I do know a few of them.”
County Fee Greg Puckett, who can be the manager director of Group Connections, Inc. stated the ordinance’s objective was to not put folks out of their houses. Residents who’ve this type of hassle could be put into contact with human service companies similar to Habitat for Humanity. The objective now could be to give attention to “addressing the burned-out constructions, the vacant stuff.” And there are lots of vacant, dilapidated constructions that must be taken down, he added.
“I can guarantee that we have now sufficient to remain busy for the subsequent 20 years,” Puckett acknowledged.
One other resident, Carla Oakley of Matoaka, requested whether or not the county may seize property. Buckner stated that the committee which is able to assessment dilapidated properties will truly go to them, and the county commissioners will go to it, too, if wanted’ property house owners will be capable to come to county fee conferences with their considerations.
Oakley additionally requested if the ordinance would formally begin a county court docket, and Buckner replied that it might not. Oakley stated she additionally had a priority for individuals who “couldn’t afford to combat in court docket.”
One other resident who signed as much as communicate, Katherine Wallace of Princeton, was additionally involved about folks dropping their house as a result of they’re dilapidated, and instructed the commissioners about “tent cities” of the homeless in Charleston. Puckett stated that such tent cities could be present in Mercer County, too.
“We’re not making an attempt to displace them,” Puckett stated of individuals dwelling in dilapidated constructions, saying once more that they are often guided to providers within the county and people supplied by the state Division of Well being and Human Assets.
Wallace stated that she was “undoubtedly in favor” of eliminating deserted and burned-out constructions, however was involved that the county is perhaps “overstepping” with the ordnance.
Buckner, Puckett and County Commissioner Invoice Archer voted unanimously to approve the ordinance’s third studying. It’s now in impact, however the county fee nonetheless has to type the committee which is able to work to implement it.
“We took a giant step tonight,” Buckner stated as the general public left the courtroom.
Puckett thanked the Mercer County Planning Fee and the WV College of Legislation for his or her work on drafting the ordinance.
The 18-page ordinance was accessible for studying on the county’s Fb web page and on the county’s web site. Copies have been supplied to residents earlier than the assembly started.
— Contact Greg Jordan at email@example.com