After more than a year of discussion, deliberation and amendments, Snowshoe’s Resort Area District learned its fate at the July 21 Pocahontas County Commission meeting.
Several people gathered in anticipation of the commission’s decision, but before the decision was made, Commission President Bill Beard opened the floor to those who wished to speak on the matter.
“[Commissioner] Jamie [Walker] and I have been at this for over two years,” Beard said, “and we’ve been listening to a lot. I think we need to get to a point and get to the point of voting one way or another before the night’s over. As far as going into a big, long discussion tonight, I don’t think it’s going to benefit anybody.”
The first to speak was Bill McHenry, a retired Marine Corps officer and program director.
“One thing I took away from my service [in Beirut, Desert Storm, and Vietnam] was one citizen can make a difference,” McHenry said, “and the dignity is in the effort in our democracy. We have talked, and I’ve showed you that I’m not opposed to the RAD. Could the RAD be a good idea? Yeah. I just think this one is a bad idea.”
McHenry has spoken on the issue before and even presented a RAD alternative to the commission last winter.
When asked what he disliked about the RAD, McHenry said, “the special assessment.”
“Holly [his wife] and I have worked hard,” McHenry explained. “Our condo that we paid $200,000 for, that we sold our rental properties for, is worth half of what it was worth now because they’re taking $12 million off the top of the mountain every year. We only have fifty percent of our property left, and you’re going to allow them to come in and put an assessment against our property?”
With regard to the two percent service fee, McHenry’s position, along with many others, gave it a warmer reception.
“Like Bill and Jamie said, the service fee, I think, it’s perfectly fine,” Commissioner David McLaughlin said. “The two percent service fee is not going to hurt anybody. It’s not going to hurt anybody in the county. The guests are going to pay it. But that five percent special assessment fee – people are scared to death of that. But like Mr. McHenry said, it [the RAD] could be a good thing.”
In light of the commentary, Snowshoe CEO Frank DeBerry was given the opportunity to respond to the comments.
“I’ll just address specifically the special assessment,” DeBerry said. “That seems to be what people are talking about. The first point I want to make is that a much more liberal authority for special assessment, at the same level, exists in every municipality in the state of West Virginia. It’s statutory, and we did nothing but copy code in order to put that language in there.
“Any proposed special assessment can be defeated by either twenty-five percent of those proposed to be assessed by petitioning, or voting against the assessment. Even if it survives those two, it requires a six out of seven board member vote to pass. There are so many checks and balances. Those who are against this have turned this entire argument into the special assessment. It is not a money grabber. It is not an attempt to take anything from anyone. It’s sound financial planning. I’m not willing to put Snowshoe on the hook to do all that without full, sound financial planning in place.”
Following the commission’s executive session, it was decided that the county would not support Snowshoe’s proposal.
“Mr. President,” McLaughlin said, “after considerable consideration, I make a motion to reject the petition for the RAD to be created at Snowshoe.”
Beard opened the door for discussion on the motion, to which both he and Walker responded.
“With the setting of the RAD, I feel, to the best interest of the county and Snowshoe, I don’t think it is exactly what we need,” Beard said.
“I feel that the service fee of two percent would be a benefit to the county,” Walker said. “I think it would be a benefit for Snowshoe, and the reason I say that is I’ve been here for the last four and a half years and have watched property values and tax space go down. Things are not getting better up there. They’re continuously getting worse, and we need change of some form.
“However, with the five percent assessment, I’m strongly against that because I think that would it go down ever father. I’m one hundred percent in favor of the service fee, and I would have liked to have been able to work that out.”
The motion was passed 2-1 with opposition from Walker.
In other news:
Grazia Apolinares appeared before the commission to discuss her contract with the Pocahontas County Commission for the services she has provided. The commission approved a one year contract for the Pocahontas County Water Resources Task Force.
BFD Volunteer Fire Department Assistant Chief Dennis Evan, Johnny Dean and a number of Pocahontas County towing services appeared before the commission to listen to the first reading of the previously amended towing ordinance. Amendments were made to allow the police department, as well as EMS, to call for emergency towing services. The amended ordinance will have its first reading at the next county commission meeting.
911 Emergency Management Director Mike O’Brien and Doug McKenzie of GeoWeb, LLC returned this week to discuss the proposed contract for Pocahontas County’s 911 Mapping and Addressing Maintenance. The one year maintenance contract was approved.
Tammie Alderman appeared before the commission with the Pocahontas County Day Report Center’s monthly update.
A motion was passed unanimously to appoint 911 Director Mike O’Brien as Ex Officio member to the Pocahontas County 911 Advisory Board for a three year term, ending June 30, 2018.
The next regular County Commission meeting is scheduled Tuesday, August 4, at 8:30 a.m.