By Jean A. Flanagan
Paving the way for new business opportunities, the Hardy County Commission approved proposed amendments to the county’s zoning ordinance. The approval vote came after a public hearing held in conjunction with the regular commission meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 7.
The amendments include authorized permitted uses for agri-tourism operations, licensed farm wineries, licensed breweries, licensed mini-distilleries in agricultural zones, commercial zones and industrial zones.[private]
“These changes will allow wineries, breweries and distilleries in areas zoned for agriculture,” Hardy County Planner Melissa Scott said. “The state will not license if not allowed by zoning. We are specifically allowing those businesses.”
The proposed amendments also included definitions for agri-tourism, tasting facility, brewery, cidery, distillery, distillery-mini, winery and winery-farm.
“I don’t understand that if it’s not specifically allowed it’s prohibited,” Commission President Harold Michael said.
“That’s standard zoning,” Scott replied.
Several people spoke in favor of the amendments.
“It lightens the licensing process,” said West Virginia University Extension Agent Dave Workman. “It mirrors other places that have wineries and distilleries. The whole licensure, permitting process is so much easier.”
“It opens up the county to agri-tourism,” said Convention and Visitors Bureau Director Michele Moure-Reeves. “It will provide an opportunity for these types of businesses. We’re behind in that. There’s only one brewery and that’s in Wardensville. We support what the planning commission has done.”
“This kind of zoning promotes getting wineries into the area,” said Betty Arbogast. She mentioned the increase in wineries in Loudon County, Va.
Only one person spoke in opposition to the amendments.
“The more restrictions you have, the more it will keep business from coming,” said Hardy County Rural Development Authority Director Mallie Combs.
Commissioner David “Jay” Fansler said zoning protects everyone. He said when people complained about him building poultry houses, he made sure he was following the rules. “Once I met the criteria, they couldn’t shut me down,” he said.
After the vote was taken to approve the amendments, Commissioner William “JR” Keplinger said it was like planning for retirement. “If you don’t plan, there’s nothing waiting for you when you get there. It’s better to plan.”
Representatives from the town of Moorefield requested the commission approve an application for annexation of the Masonic Lodge property at 901 Lee St.
The commission approved a resolution to accept the application and set a public hearing for Dec. 5 at 10 a.m.
Finance Director Tammy Carr presented the Annual Financial Report for Fiscal Year 2017.
The report shows total assets and liabilities at $8,222,358. This is a decrease from Financial Report for FY 2016, which showed a net position of $8,905,171.
Carr said the Other Post Employment Benefits, or OPEB, was calculated at $222 per employee for the first six months of the year at $117 per employee for the last six months of the year.
OPEB are the benefits retirees receive other than their pension benefits. It can include health care, life insurance premiums and other deferred compensation.
According to state law, OPEB expenses for every active employee must be shown as a liability on the balance sheet.
Paul Lewis, director of the Hardy County 911 Center and Office of Emergency Management presented his report for October.
Lewis said he is still looking at sites for a communications tower in the Lost River/Mathias area.
“I have not received a review of the Mathias site, but the Lost River site would work if we could obtain a piece of property to put it on,” he said.
Lewis said he is meeting with representatives of Hardy Telecommunications about putting equipment on the Wardensville tower.
“This was part of the approval process when we got the grant,” he said. “This will help them cover a lot of area they were not able to cover before.”
Residents and businesses along Route 259 north of Wardensville, including the West Virginia University Department of Agriculture Reymann Memorial Farm, were unable to get fiber optic service because of right-of-way issues.
Recently, Hardy Telecommunications requested permission from the town of Wardensville to erect a pole to wirelessly provide broadband service to Capon Springs Resort. The ability to provide service to other areas of the Hardy County has yet to be determined.
Calls for service increased a bit between September and October. In September, there were 626 total calls and in October, there were 693 calls. They are as follows:
Moorefield Police Department had 309 calls for service.
Hardy County Sheriff’s Department had 252 calls for service.
West Virginia State Police had 62 calls for service.
West Virginia Division of Natural Resources had 5 calls for service.
•numbers include traffic stops
Fraley Ambulance Service had 94 calls for service.
Hardy County Emergency Ambulance Authority had 41 calls for service.
Wardensville Volunteer Rescue Squad had 19 calls for service.
Moorefield Volunteer Fire Department had 23 calls for service.
Capon Valley Volunteer Fire Department had 9 calls for service.
Mathias/Baker Volunteer Fire Department had 7 calls for service.
Whether to include a special tax levy for emergency ambulance service on the May 2018 ballot and how much that levy should be was discussed, although no action was taken.
A levy, if approved by voters, would be in effect for five years and would have to be renewed every five years.
Lewis, president of the Hardy County Emergency Ambulance Authority said to cover payroll and equipment replacement would cost between $1 million and $1.2 million per year.
“If everyone paid the fee as it stands now, we would collect $845,000,” he said. “But we don’t have a handle on businesses yet. Some have paid, but not all.”
Derek Alt, executive director of the HCEAA said insurance collections could be estimated at $120,000 to $150,000 annually.
“So what’s the benefit of a levy?” Commission President Harold Michael asked.
“Paperwork,” Lewis responded. “We wouldn’t have the cost of sending out bills for the fee and it would come directly to the tax office.”
“Now, the fee is straight across the board,” said Commissioner David “Jay” Fansler. “With a levy, the man who has more pays more.”
“But 80 percent of taxpayers would pay less,” Michael said. “The biggest advantage is folks get to vote. We had a levy and it was voted down.
“But we have to pay whether it’s from a levy or a fee. If the levy does not generate enough funds, we could have the levy and the fee.”
Lewis said he would bring specific cost estimates for the HCEAA for the next five years to the December commission meeting.
•The payroll register for Oct. 1 – 16 was $75,848.74.
•The payroll register for Oct. 16 – 31 was $68,676.62.
•The regional jail bill for September was $75,704.25. Prosecuting Attorney Lucas See said it was high because people are in jail in lieu of bond. “On arraignment day, the people who tested positive for drugs, Judge Williams put them in jail,” he said.
•The county’s contribution to the Farmland Preservation board in October was $6,700.10.
•Patty Shoemaker was appointed to the HCEAA board of directors.
•The commissioners gave permission for the County Clerk to sign state budget revisions.
•The commission approved a refund certification for $17,928.91 from the Secretary of State for the Road Bond Special Election.
•The commission approved grant applications for $10,400 for the Assessor’s Office to scan records and for $11,000 for the County Clerk’s office to index files on the website.
•The Prosecuting Attorney introduced Keshia Tenorio, the county’s new assistant prosecutor.
The next meeting of the Hardy County Commission will be held on Tuesday, Dec. 5 beginning at 9 a.m. Anyone wishing to be included on the agenda should contact the County Clerk’s office at 304-530-250. The public is encouraged to attend.[/private]