With only four items on the agenda, Monday night’s Marlinton Town Council meeting seemed to morph into a present day version of Abbot and Costello’s skit, “Who’s on first?”
The town has an ordinance that only allows RVs in town for a period of 30 days each quarter.
Several property owners have requested a variance to the ordinance to accommodate workers coming to the area to work on the Atlantic Coast Pipeline.
In his Mayor’s Corner last week, Mayor Sam Felton noted that planning should have started two years ago in order to meet the needs that are just now being addressed.
Felton recalled that the first question he was asked when he became mayor was, “What are you going to do about dilapidated properties in town.”
Progress has been made, but much more needs to be done.
Felton, with input from town attorney Bob Martin, presented a plan to council that would combine the town’s efforts to clean up dilapidated properties with the potential for providing space for RVs. Such a plan would increase income for the property owners, would benefit the town in water, sewer and garbage revenue, and, at the end of the ACP construction period, would leave green spaces in town that could then be available for new home construction.
Felton said owners of some of the dilapidated houses hope to get $200 or $300 a month in rent, but there is frequent turnover and or eviction of renters.
“Some of the properties have water carried to them,” Felton said, “and there are cases where there is an electric cord running from one house to a sump pump at the river to provide water to another house.”
Felton is always looking for ways to improve the town.
“You could say that Dominion is paying for our recovery,” he said.
“You have to think it through.”
Martin, who was initially against the idea, said he has come full circle on the RV variance.
“We find ourselves in an opportunistic position,” he said. “We have people coming to town in travel trailers – [valued] upwards of $70,000 to $100,000 for the most part.
“These people travel around the country and live in these RVs while building pipelines. It is an opportunity for our residents to realize some income.”
Martin said the fact that Marlinton has Internet and cell service makes it a high priority spot for accommodating the workers.
Martin advised council that it was in control of setting lot size and location, as well as setting rules and regulations consistent with the town’s ordinances as well as with FEMA and other agencies. The town’s building inspector will be involved in the approval process should the council agree to a variance.
After much discussion from council and the general public, confusion ensued as motions were made and withdrawn with regard to the next step.
Councilmember Sue Helton said she did not want to do anything until “it” was in writing. However, the purpose of Monday night’s discussion was to begin the process to consider a variance and what that process might entail.
After much back and forth, council voted to call a special meeting to discuss the option of a variance to the RV ordinance. That meeting will be held Tuesday, August 14, at 7 p.m. in council chambers.
At that meeting, council will address three issues:
• Consideration of a variance to allow RVs within town limits for a period to exceed 30 days per quarter.
• If a variance is approved, would owners who demolish dilapidated properties be eligible to apply for the RV variance for their properties?
• Address current requests from property owners to establish RV hook-up sites.
All to be subject to written rules and regulations as set forth by council to ensure compliance with the town’s ordinances as well as compliance with regard to issues such as threats of flooding.
As a result of the town’s proactive measures in its clean-up efforts, recently hired Marlinton Police Chief Travis Cook gave a – what could be called – positive report.
He logged responses to 33 traffic stops, 32 calls for service, two arrests, two accidents, assisted on two shooting calls outside of town, three incidences of breaking and entering, three acts of larceny, one stolen vehicle and one overdose, as well as welfare checks.
Cook meets regularly with young people who congregate in town and reported that loitering at the gazebo and the mini-park is “dwindling.”
In other business, Felton reported
• equipment needed for the water improvement project will be mobilized Monday.
• Wayne Hypes, of Dunn Engineers, will hold a pre-construction meeting Tuesday, and construction on the water improvement project will begin by August 20.
• funding for Discovery Junction, a proposed park beside the opera house, is going better than anticipated.
Marlinton Town Council meets in regular session the first Monday of each month, holidays excluded, at 7 p.m. in council chambers on the second floor of the municipal building.
Special meeting to address RV variance is set for Tuesday, August 14, at 7 p.m.