Good intentions clash with ordinance at MTC

Jaynell Graham

There is a saying that “no decision is a decision in itself,” and that was true at Monday night’s Marlinton Town Council meeting when council failed to make a motion to address a request from local property and business owner Randy Sharp.

Sharp requested a temporary variance to the town’s ordinance concerning RV parking within the town limits. That ordinance states that an RV may be parked within the limits for 30 days each quarter. The temporary variance Sharp requested would be in effect for the duration of the pipeline construction.

Sharp owns property on Ninth Avenue, which has access to electric, septic and water hook-ups, and wanted the variance to allow temporary parking of RVs  there.

Sharp said he has had good relationships with pipeline workers who have come to the area and who have shopped at Glades Building Supply – his family’s store. He said many have families they want to bring here, and are seeking housing. Many of the workers have RVs since they travel from place to place for work.

“I’m a service dog,” Sharp said. “If someone has a need, I try to help them. I think we need to embrace this opportunity and treat these people in a neighborly fashion.”

With septic and water fees and B&O taxes, Sharp said the town would also benefit from accommodating the people who are coming to the county.

“Just to fill in the audience,” Mayor Sam Felton said, “the purpose of the thirty-day limit in the ordinance was to keep the town from turning into an RV park.”

Marlinton resident Margaret Worth, who spoke against the variance, commented, “Enough said.”

Worth also advised council that she had contacted the Flood Plain Coordinator prior to attending the meeting.

Sharp ended his request by saying we need to respect each other’s opinion, and whatever the outcome, we are all neighbors.

Marlinton resident Charles Malcomb was also in attendance. Several months ago, council had denied his request to park an RV in town as his permanent residence.

When time came for a vote on Sharp’s request, council was silent.

“You have a request from Randy for a variance of the ordinance for a piece of property on Ninth Street,” said legal counsel Bob Martin. “You need to vote to approve it, or deny it.”

Council remained silent, and failed to respond to Sharp’s request.

“This is not a good ordinance,” Martin said.

Next on the agenda was Brian Tankersley, who owns seven acres at the lower end of Third Avenue between Waugh Alley and the Knapps Creek Bridge.

Tankersley, who, for two years, has been in the planning stage of transforming a grown-up piece of property into a park and campsite, appeared before council as a courtesy to let them know of his plans. While the idea of campsites did not come about as a result of the housing needs for pipeliners, he acknowledged that long-term usage would be a benefit.

“Where do you live?” asked Marlinton Town Recorder B. J. Gudmundsson.

Tankersley replied that his home was in Hillsboro.

“Why don’t you put the campsite at your house?” Gudmundsson said.

Gudmundsson, addressing flood concerns, referred to RVs as “floating bombs.”

While not endorsing the proposed campground, Joe Sharp who lives just a couple of houses up from Tankersley’s property said he has a 30 foot camper in his driveway, and when there is a threat of flooding, he takes it to the Marlinton Motor Inn.

After another lengthy discussion, councilman Norris Long made a motion to approve Tankersley’s campground as long as he adhered to the town’s ordinance for RVs.

There was no second, and so the motion died.

But there was no need for a motion nor a vote.

“It’s your property,” Felton said. “You can do what you want, as long as you abide by the town’s ordinances.”

In other business, the council addressed the need for a new garbage truck. The current vehicle is 16 years old, and uses a case of hydraulic oil a week, and requires constant welding of the packer. The town has received estimates on two vehicles, in the neighborhood of $130,000.

Former councilmember Mark Strauss asked if council had “looked to see if it had the money” for the purchase.

Felton assured Strauss that council had, indeed, determined that the money was there prior to making the decision, saying the town recently transferred $100,000 to that fund.

Felton reminded those in attendance that all monies – septic, water, trash – were kept in separate accounts to be used only for bills and purchases pertaining to each line item.

Marlinton Fire Chief reported to council that the department had cashed the check it received from the town to help cover costs of repairs to its ladder truck. That truck is in the fleet specifically for readiness to fight fires that may occur in the tall buildings in town.

Barlow also commended the town for its repairs of water leaks and maintenance of water lines which has increased pressure in the town’s fire hydrants. This has helped the fire department gain and maintain an Insurance Service Office (ISO) rating of 4.

Barlow said the rating is about the best a volunteer fire department can attain. The work of the department and town helps reduce insurance premiums for homeowners in the service area.

According to the ISO, “10 percent of the rating reflects the community’s emergency communications capabilities, including 911 telephone systems, adequacy of telephone lines, operator supervision and staffing, and dispatching systems. Fifty percent of the rating reflects the quality of the fire department, including adequacy of equipment, sufficiency of staffing, level of training and the geographic distribution of fire companies.

“Evaluation of the water supply comprises the remaining 40 percent of the ISO rating. This looks at the condition and maintenance of hydrants, existence of alternative water sources, and the amount of available water, both in terms of volume and pressure, compared with the amount needed to suppress fires.”

In other matters

• Barlow asked that residents “Adopt a Hydrant” and  maintain the area around the hydrants – mowing and clearing snow as needed to assist the town and fire department when access to the hydrants is necessary for maintenance or for fire suppression.

• The second increase in water rates will be reflected in the July billing.

• Distributed the Dog Tax collection in equal shares to the animal shelter and the humane society. Total collection was $475.20.

Marlinton Town Council meets at 7 p.m. the first Monday of each month – holidays excluded – in council chambers on the second floor of the Marlinton Municipal Building.

Jaynell Graham may be contacted at

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