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County Commission not ready for RAD

The West Virginia banking community has serious concerns with a proposed resort area district (RAD) at Snowshoe, and two banking groups sent a letter to the Pocahontas County Commission describing those concerns. A RAD is a public corporation with powers similar to those of a municipality. The West Virginia Legislature passed a statute last year that authorizes the creation of RADs, but none has been created in the state. County commissions are the approving authority for RADs within their boundaries.

Snowshoe Mountain, Inc., submitted a petition to create a RAD in April. In August, the Commission voted down the RAD petition by a 2-1 vote. Commissioner David Fleming voted to approve the petition. Commissioners Jamie Walker and William Beard voted against the petition, citing uncertainty with how the RAD would affect the community at large. The Commission can reconsider the petition at any time.

During its meeting on Tuesday morning, county commissioners reviewed a letter from West Virginia bankers and stated their positions on moving forward with the RAD process. The West Virginia Bankers Association and Community Bankers of West Virginia sent a joint letter to the Commission regarding the RAD proposal. The letter reads in part:

“[W]e would like to respectfully request that the Commission delay further consideration of matters associated with the with the implementation of the Resort Area Development (RAD) proposal currently pending in Pocahontas County until we have an opportunity to appear at a public meeting and voice our significant concerns on the potential negative impacts to the county and its taxpayers’ interests.

“We believe that the proposed RAD will affect economic development and the general availability of credit in the county and have serious concerns that we believe should be addressed by modifying the proposal pending before the Commission and by amending the statute that created the RAD option.”

Commissioners were requested to state their position on reconsidering the RAD petition, in light of the letter from the bank associations.

Walker said he’s not ready to reconsider the RAD proposal.

“I feel like there’s some adjustments that need to be made, personally, mainly with the assessments side of it, which affects the banks and has a lot of the homeowners upset,” said Walker. “Every complaint I’ve got for the last month has been in coordinates with that to some extent. Different reasoning and different things and different ways it affects people. I’m not in favor of voting on it until some things are changed to suit everybody. That’s my opinion.

“I talked to Mr. DeBerry [Snowshoe Mountain CEO Frank DeBerry] about that and we arranged those public meetings. I’m not too sure that didn’t cause more chaos than it did resolution. I don’t know, but there’s still a lot of upset people, I think.”

The current RAD proposal would create a district at Snowshoe governed by a seven member board. Resort management would be guaranteed a four-seat majority, with three seats held by homeowners. The board would have the power to impose and collect property value-based assessments for specific projects. Assessments and other major financial undertakings would require the concurrence of six board members.

Beard said many are opposed to the assessment scheme.

“I’ve been talking to a lot of people over the last month or so and I get the same feeling that Mr. Walker gets – that there’s a lot of opposition to the homeowners assessment,” he said. “ As far as the percent [fee] on the service end of it, as far as I know, I haven’t had a complaint about it. So, at this point, I’m opposed to the way it is written. If we can work it out and make the Community Bankers Association comfortable with it, then I’d move forward. But until we can work this out, it might be the best thing to send it back to the Legislature and have it re-written or amended. The Community Bankers Association – that’s what they feel needs to be done. In my opinion, it’s down the line before we can bring it back on the table again.”

Fleming said he’ll be ready to reconsider the petition when his fellow commissioners are ready.

“My position on it is – if Commissioners Walker and Beard can get it to the point where they feel comfortable about it, then we’ll bring it back on the agenda and consider it further at that time,” he said.

The commission moved to other items and appointed Anne Walker, Leisha Cassell, John Rebinski, Sam McPaters, Jody Bolyard, Mark Williamson and Heather Niday to the Local Emergency Planning Committee. The Commission will advertise to fill a community member at-large position on the committee.

In other business, the County Commission:
– Approved waiving their right of first refusal to allow the sale of a parcel of land near Pocahontas Memorial Hospital;
– Scheduled their November meeting on November 3 at 8:30 a.m.;
– Heard an update from State Senator Greg Tucker on a proposed rail-trail project from Slaty Fork to Bergoo;
– Approved receipt of a $8,000 grant, obtained by Emergency Management Services Director Shawn Dunbrack, to be used for the purchase of two hazardous material response trailers;
– Took no action on office space for the Water Resources Task Force;
– Approved a $2,000 donation to Preserving Pocahontas for data recovery services and back-up disk drives, and;
– Approved a $13,000 budget revision to pay three year’s back pay to Flood Plain Coordinator Don McNeel.

The next regular meeting of the Pocahontas County Commission is scheduled for Monday, November 3 at 8:30 a.m.

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